Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, June 13, 2022. Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● The Opposition Activates Politics
● Russia Revises its Parukh Response
● War Dividends
● Caucasus Barometer Survey Takeaways
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
Since the opposition started daily protests and civil disobedience late in April, we’ve been covering their activities in the street both in our live shows on Twitter, as well as in our weekly podcasts. This past week it seemed like the opposition ramped up its political outreach.
Hrant, what do you think of this apparent activation of the opposition’s efforts to reach out and talk to external players?
● The government deployed extra heavy police lines to prevent the protests coming anywhere near the building.
● The opposition did not get to meet with Lavrov but delivered its message that this government does not have a mandate to cede Artsakh to Azerbaijan.
● The US Embassy did not comment on the meeting, but in May they had simply urged the opposition to “refrain from violence and respect the rule of law and Armenia’s democracy.”
On Tuesday, there was an “International Conference” organized by the Council of Europe and Armenia’s Constitutional Court and funded by western NGOs. The opposition was barred from participating.
● What sort of “western values” were being explored at this conference, that it barred the political opposition from attending?
● Can anyone in Armenia outside of the ruling party, trust the west given its open hypocrisy and pushing of western interests as so-called “western values”?
As we mentioned earlier, Sergei Lavrov was in Yerevan and at the end of his meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there was a press conference. A couple of things of note:
FM Mirzoyan claimed that Armenia does not have a political crisis at home.
FM Lavrov was asked how Russia planned to address the plight of over 400 families of Artsakh’s eastern frontier Parukh village who were displaced by Azerbaijan’s attacks 3 months ago in March. His original response was that the issue would be addressed as part of the border demarcation process, but Azerbaijan quickly replied that Parukh had nothing to do with that process. As a result Russia’s foreign ministry revised Lavrov’s statement to say that they hoped the process would increase trust between Armenia and Azerbaijan and prevent future escalations.
● Why did this happen?
The November 2020 agreement states that the two sides, Armenia and Azerbaijan, would stand at their positions on November 10, 2020. Everyone is very strict in wanting to stick to the agreement, except that anything that Azerbaijan can get away with by force seems to be allowed and doesn’t get talked about. To me, it seems like Russia is the paper tiger here.
● Has Russia basically agreed that whatever Baku gets away with, using force, they get away with and that’s a done deal?
● Have they basically agreed to the loss of Parukh?
As the war in Ukraine resulted in large sanctions against Russia, many Russians, as well as Ukrainians and some Armenians from those two countries have come to Armenia on a semi-permanent basis, have registered their businesses in Armenia, moved a bunch of money into Armenian banks, and so they’ve increased the country’s economic activity in the first quarter of 2022, as well as the demand for Armenian Drams, boosting the value of the currency.
● What is happening to the Armenian economy right now, as it reaps “war dividends” from the crisis in Ukraine?
● Inflation is rampant in Armenia, - around 8.4% in April, and even more in May - and this additional demand is likely to exacerbate it further. How is the Central Bank dealing with this issue?
● Should the economic outlook for Armenia in 2022 be revised?
● Is this current bump a temporary side-effect of the crisis, and will go away as the crisis fades, or is there a way to integrate the reasons that have given rise to this activity into enduring features of the economy?
○ Are we seeing promising efforts towards that by the current government?
The Armenian Dram has remained stable in the past few years despite cataclysmic events such as the 44-day war and the Covid pandemic. In the past we’ve talked about this issue, and we’ve noted that one of the key support structures for the currency are the remittances from Russia, and some other countries to Armenia.
● What is the state of remittances from Russia, particularly since the Ukraine crisis?
● Have remittances from other countries fared similarly? Have proportions in the various countries remained the same? For example, remittances from America, other EAEU countries, etc.?
● During the Ukraine crisis Russia began to demand that countries pay for their Russian gas in Rubles. This has helped shore up the Ruble internationally. Armenia agreed to pay in Rubles; what effect did this have on Armenia?
On to our final topic, Hrant thank you for bringing to my attention the Caucasus Barometer survey results. The CRRC, Caucasus Research Resource Center, conducted this significant survey from mid-December 2021 through February 2022.
The first slide of note shows that 57% of the polled people do not trust the current government. If we include all the negative responses, over 71% indicate that they distrust this government.
Over half of the population think that the government treats people unfairly.
This is a jarring result when it comes to a populist government that came to power on the basis of promises to treat people daily and remove corruption from the country.
So it’s not surprising to see then that the disappointment levels regarding expectations from the Velvet Revolution in 2018 are somewhere between 34-53%.
The disappointment levels with how the current government appoints its ranking officials is very high, between 54-71%.
The population’s anxiety levels about their physical existence has shot up. 61% are “very worried”, with over 70% generally anxious about the future.
When it comes to leaving Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) within Azerbaijan with some degree of autonomy, the poll results are radically negative about it, with 94% saying NEVER!
So what should Armenia do about Artsakh’s lost territories?
42% want Armenia to recover all territories lost.
33% want to regain all of Nagorno Karabakh proper; I think that means regaining Shushi, Hadrut, Parukh, etc.
Only a quarter of those polled want to maintain today’s status quo.
To get a feel for the political tendencies of those polled, the results paint a rather expected result, with ruling party Civil Contract showing a deeply contracted base at 21%, while Armenia Alliance, Hayastan Dashinq, is at 11%. Prosperous Armenia polls around 3-5%, and others including Pativ Unem, I have Honor Alliance, poll at 1 or 2% each. Most notably the number of those who do not identify with any existing parties is the largest block of voters representing between 37 and 49%.
The opposition’s protest movement has been rallying thousands to demonstrate daily against the government. Yet, discussions with experts indicate that while support for Pashinyan’s government and ruling party has dwindled, people are still suspicious of the opposition’s ties to former regimes; and this is perhaps evidenced by the super-low poll for Pativ Unem, which is associated with 3rd President Serge Sargsyan.
People would like to see a so-called “third force” to rise and lead forward from this vacuum of trust. Not the Civil Contract, but also a force clearly and transparently not tied or reliant on former regimes. They’d like to see some technocrats who can adeptly manage through the current catastrophic dead-ends created by the current regime as a result of the 44-day war.
● Are there any names thrown around on the streets?
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Like our pages and follow us on social media. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Hrant Mikaelian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Sergei Lavrov, Parukh, Armenian Opposition, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, Kara McDonald, USA, State Department, Ukraine, Ukraine Crisis, Ukraine War,