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Hello and welcome to Armenian News Network, Groong. I’m Hovik Manucharyan.
It’s been more than two years since the dramatic popular protests of 2018 that resulted in the resignation of Serge Sargsyan and the subsequent election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister. The change in power, which is commonly referred to as “The Velvet Revolution”, gave many the hope of a more democratic Armenia. Many promises were made in 2018, and mid-way through this administration many of us want to know how the Armenian government is delivering on those promises.
In this Conversation On Groong, we talk to two long-time activists who ended up on opposite sides of the fence on this topic with one becoming a member of parliament while the other a fiery critic of the government.
To help guide this
conversation, we have Asbed Kotchikian, who
is a senior lecturer of political science and international relations at Bentley University
in Massachusetts where he teaches courses on the Middle East and former Soviet
This episode is part 1 of the discussion covering the issues of democratization and corruption. In part 2, which we’ll publish next week, we’ll cover the topic of foreign policy.
Before we begin however, we appreciate your help in reaching a wider audience. So please hit the pause button and make sure to subscribe and like us on whatever platform you listen to us on and help spread the word by sharing this podcast on your social media channels. Thanks in advance!
Since mid-2018, Armenia’s new government under the premiership of Nikol Pashinyan and the National Assembly under a super-majority control of My Step alliance, have tried to propose and implement wide ranging policy changes. While the ruling party has presented these changes as reforms, many critics of the regime have argued that those changes are attempts to undermine state institutions. 2020 has been specifically strenuous for implementing structural and policy changes primarily because of the onslaught of Covid-19 pandemic but also because of other factors, such as the Tavush border clashes in July.
Our guests today are life-long activists and two individuals who are not only intimately informed about socio-political processes in Armenia but have played an active role in some of those changes.
Marine Manucharyan is the president of the Civic Forum NGO. She holds a Masters degree in Educational Management from Yerevan State University. Since 2004, she has been a civic and political activist and has worked with a number of local and international organizations. Manucharyan is one of the seven original initiators and founders of the Civil Contract political party and served on the first board of the party before leaving the party prior to the events of 2018. Her main areas of focus include Nagorno Karabakh, the Armenian Armed Forces, National Security and Foreign Policy.
Mikael Zolyan is a member of the National Assembly of Armenia. He has a Ph.D. in history from Yerevan State University and has taught at the Yerevan State University of Linguistics and Social Sciences, his research focuses on issues of nationalism, conflict and democratization. In 2018 Zolyan covered the revolution as a columnist and a political analyst, but several months later he joined the “My Step” political block, which won the first democratic election after the revolution. Currently Zolyan is a member of the standing committee on Foreign Affairs of the National Assembly of Armenia.
● About her public and political life before joining Civil Contract.
● What led her to be a founder of Civil Contract, and to finally part ways with it.
● His journey from academia to socio-political activism, and finally to the National Assembly?
For many international observers (as well as for the current ruling party), the 2018 mass demonstrations and subsequent change of power have been viewed as a big step towards democratization.
How do we assess the state of democracy in Armenia today? Has there been any major advance in this sphere in the past 2.5 years?
Since early 2019 Armenia’s media (social and news) landscape has exploded with increased “activism” both criticizing as well as praising the current government. What are your thoughts about this phenomenon?
How do we explain this surge in political polarization in social and news media?
One of the pillars of the new government’s agenda has been the fight against corruption. Midway through its first term, we still don’t have any significant court verdicts on prominent corruption cases.
How is the fight against systemic corruption going? Some government critics have argued that it was all show and no substance or follow up.
What about everyday corruption, police, school, university, etc. has there been any noticeable changes in there?
That concludes part one of this Conversation On Groong on the state of Armenia’s power transition. As a reminder please be on the lookout for part two of this conversation next week where we talk about Armenia’s foreign policy since 2018.
We hope this Conversation has helped your understanding of the issues involved and look forward to your feedback and suggestions. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. I’m Hovik Manucharyan, and on behalf of everyone in this episode, I wish you a good week. Thank you for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.