Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on Monday, September 12, 2022.
Today 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.
And Hovik Manucharyan also had a quick conversation about US-Armenian relations with:
Suren Sargsyan, who is the founder and President at the Armenian Center for American Studies, a research center based in Yerevan.
So here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● Latest MPG Poll Results
● IRI Poll Results
● Is there Double-Digit Growth in the Economy?
● US Armenian Relations
● Geopolitical Developments
There were two polls published recently which gives us an opportunity to take a high-level view at the current sentiments of Armenian society.
One conducted between late July and early August, published by MPG and the second one conducted by CRRC-Armenia (on behalf of International Republican Institute). Both polls look at political issues, however, the CRRC one which is conducted less frequently is more detailed and stratifies results based on numerous criteria allowing a more intricate look at the data. Both polls had similar margins of error: MPG with 3% MOE and CRRC having 2.5%.
To start off, let’s look at a question asked on the MPG poll related to Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine. The question asked is: “Do you believe that Russia’s military operations in Ukraine are justified.”
Overall, 45.8% said NO, while 32.1% said YES. That is a significant change from 39.6% NO and 35.8% YES from the same poll in April.
Q: Hrant, does this indicate that there is a stable anti-Russian segment in the population? And what does the dynamic tell us?
A similar question asked by CRRC:
An interesting question in the MPG poll asked, “Do you believe there are political prisoners in Armenia?” This seems like a good question to ask to tease out opposition-leaning respondents. And the answer was: 46.6% - YES and 53.4% - NO.
Another more direct question asked by both MPG and CRRC and is a standard question to ask: “If elections were held next Sunday, which political party would you vote for?”
For the MPG poll, nearly 16.1% said they’d vote for Civil Contract, 5.1% for Hayastan Dashinq, and 2.7% for Pativ Unem.
For CRRC, there were similar results. Civil Contract at 25%, Hayastan Dashinq (including ARF) at 8%, and Pativ Unem at around 1%.
The remaining political forces got around 1% or less. To me, this looks like approximately the same margins as in the 2021 elections.
Q: Do you agree?
And lastly, the most surprising (if not shocking) result was that Nikol Pashinyan’s rating has increased since February of this year according to CRRC, while that of opposition leaders has decreased. In the case of the opposition, this is complemented by a marked increase in the anti-rating of opposition leaders.
For instance, for Nikol Pashinyan, his favorability rose from 45% in 2021 to 53% in the recent poll. Meanwhile his anti-rating (the sum of somewhat unfavorable and highly unfavorable) stayed at 33% for both. Robert Kocharyan on the other hand went down from 23% favorable to 20%. Meanwhile, his anti-rating rose from 57% to 61%.
These results should be looked in contrast with another question in CRRC which asked if the country is going in the right direction:
● 31% said YES (down from 43% in April/May 2021)
● 42% said NO (up from 20% in April/May 2021)
Q: How do you explain this apparent paradox Hrant. People don’t like the direction the country is going but this Pashinyan is doing a good job????
Every time these polls come out, people allege political bias. For instance, for CRRC, we all know it is funded by the USAID, and conducted on behalf of the IRI, which is a US institution. Meanwhile, MPG is a local institution, but people sometimes allege that it is controlled by this or that political force. This is a frequently asked question, especially when we have polls that have surprising or disappointing results related to politics.
The IRI Poll results for June 2022 are public. Some of our main takeaways:
● National security is the top concern in Armenia. Across the board, 54% of Armenians named this their No. 1 concern. At about 10-12% were other concerns about the economy and domestic political stability.
● In the past year, the number of people who think the country is headed in the right direction has shrunk by 12% to 31%. Those who think the country is headed in the wrong direction have more than doubled, to 42%.
● At 16% of those polled, PM Pashinyan is the “most trusted politician”. 64% over those polled “trust none”. Except for Pashinyan and Alen Simonyan, all other politicians appear to have an unfavorable rating in the 50-70% range.
● The ruling Civil Contract party appears to be the most popular party, with 25% favorable rating. Only the “I would not vote-rs” have an equal “following”.
● Only the Ministry of Emergency Situations has a favorable rating. All other ministries rate between 29 and 48%, with the Ministry of Justice rounding the bottom.
● More than half of those polled have a favorable view of the “new patrol service” by the police, but generally a third do not know what this is.
● The Turkish-Armenian Normalization process is widely unpopular. Roughly two thirds of the population look upon this process and opening the border with Turkey negatively, and the uncertainty about the outcome nearly triples (42%) as it is projected 10 years into the future.
● Most Armenians hold the US, then Zelensky, then NATO as the top 3 responsible for the war in Ukraine.
According to official statistics, Armenia’s economy registered an 11.8% growth in the first half of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021.
● What are the fundamentals of Armenia's growth and inflation? What's driving it?
While the government touts “double digit growth”, some key sectors, such as agriculture are down (-5.5%).
● What appear to be the priorities of the Central Bank of Armenia? Is it promoting growth, or fighting inflation?
● Is Armenia’s economy favoring some sections of the population while leaving others out?
Poverty levels have risen sharply to unprecedented levels (48%) in the past year.
● Who is the vulnerable segment of the population? ASK? NO?
● How does the policy of the CBA play into this, is it helping, or hurting the middle class?
At the start of 2022, most economists, including the CBA, lowered their expectations of Armenia’s economic growth. Roughly predictions were revised down from around 6% to 2%.
But Armenia seems to have benefited from the dynamics of the war in Ukraine, in the form of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants, together with their own remittances, jobs, businesses, and so on.
● Is this real growth? Or will this evaporate as the war in Ukraine ends?
● Is the real estate market in a bubble, and are we at risk of a crash once the war ends?
● How are people not revolting due to economy?
● Increase in social payments
○ Are the increases commensurate with inflation?
● Russian defense lines in Eastern Ukraine
● Azerbaijan - Armenia negotiations
○ No deal in Brussels?
■ Pashinyan admits that no agreement on crucial issues in Brussels
● Why was this detail released now, in Russia
■ New death on the border with Armenia.
■ For almost 2 weeks, Armenia has denied regular allegations in Azeri press about Armenian provocations and violations of ceasefire
● Russia-Armenia relations
○ Vladivostok summit
■ What was the purpose?
■ Did Pashinyan have any reason to be there other than to meet Putin?
■ Putin talked about the need for self-determination of Donetsk/Lugansk, bringing Kosovo as an example. During this segment of the speech Pashinyan was silent, why?
○ Armenian FM, deputy PM accompany the PM. Why? What does this have to do with multipolarity and economic relations in Russia’s east?
○ Armenia responded to Russia’s note in kind, by complaining that certain Russian media promote anti-Armenian sentiment.
US - Armenia relations
DM in United States, FM in Russia
● Suren Papikyan’s airplane gets lost and ends up in Kansas?
● What is the meaning of this trip? Is this a signal that the US will be a more active player in the region? Could this result in higher military aid to Armenia, etc…
Reeker visit to Armenia/region
● Is activation of the OSCE Minsk Group in Armenia's interests?
● If so, then why isn't Armenia talking more publicly about it?
That was our Week in Review and we hope you found it helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Follow us on Twitter, and Like our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we thank you for listening. Stay well, we’ll be back next week.
Suren Sargsyan, Hrant Mikaelian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Kharkiv, Kherson, Economy, Inflation, Central Bank of Armenia, US Armenian Relations, Defense Minister, Suren Papikyan, Kansas, Kansas National Guard, Philip Reeker, OSCE MG, Minsk Group