Hrant Mikaelian - Yerevan Politics | Aliyev “Elections”| Armenia & Georgia | MPG Polls | Ep 309 - Feb 11, 2024 [EP309]

Posted on Sunday, Feb 11, 2024 | Category: Armenia, Politics, Poll | Series: wir

Guest:

Topics:

  • Yerevan City Politics
  • Aliyev “Elections”
  • Armenia-Georgia Strategic Partnership
  • Latest MPG Poll Review

Episode 309 | Recorded: Feb 11, 2024

Show Notes

Yerevan Politics

Minority Rule in Yerevan

On Thursday, the Yerevan Avagani (Council of Elders, or City Council) met to discuss the canceling of mandates of several opposition council members. The opposition had planned to boycott the council meeting and prevent a quorum, but two members of the Public Voice party joined the meeting and voted with Civil Contract and the Republic party to overcome quorum and also gave them the needed votes to oust Hayk Marutyan, a former mayor of Yerevan and leader of the second largest party in the council, as well as two other council members. Yet another two council members, including Zaruhi Postanjyan survived the vote.

There’s been a lot of acrimonious drama in the Yerevan city council since the September 2023 elections, which were also resolved in a similar manner: Civil Contract and the Republic party did not have the votes to appoint a mayor, and Public Voice party, then led by Vardan Ghukasyan, showed up for the vote and gave them quorum. As appreciation for his efforts, Ghukasyan and his cronies were booted from Public Voice in what amounted to a coup within the party.

Vardan Ghukasyan, by the way, is a controversial figure who came to fame through his scandal-ridden and obscenity-laden Facebook persona. He is believed to be outside Armenia and has the title of “honorable” leader of the party, essentially leading the members remotely. Incidentally, after the scandal with “Public Voice”, Ghukasyan started a new party called “DOK” which is an acronym for «Դեմոկրատիա, օրենք և կարգապահություն» (Democracy, Law, and Discipline) and also his street nickname.

Vahan Avagian, one of the Public Voice council people, admitted that they were summoned to the Investigative Committee on Tuesday, but would not say what happened there.

Questions:

  • What is going on with the Yerevan Avagani?
  • What is the deal with Public Voice (Հանրային Ձայն)? Are they a real party, or a shill for Civil Contract?
  • What’s the story with the party? They removed two of their founding leaders: Vardan Ghukasyan, and Artak Galstyan. On Thursday another one, Anush Ginosyan, left the party but said she’s stay in the city council as an “independent”.
  • Hayk Marutyan and Mayr Hayastan leader Andranik Tevanyan have been calling to hold fresh Yerevan elections. Do you think this is a realistic expectation under the current circumstances? What options are there to achieve a democratic city council?

Allegations of “Unprecedented” Corruption Scheme by Civil Contract

One of the biggest arguments of the supporters of the Pashinyan regime is that “at least we don’t have the corruption of the old times”. That was always a very subjective argument but recent bombshell allegations about political campaign contributions has been called “unprecedented” by even western watchdogs.

A report released by Infocom talks about millions of drams being donated to Civil Contract’s campaign involving Tigran Avinyan, ahead of the 2023 elections in Yerevan. The party in total was able to raise over 1.25 million DOLLARS, this is over around 500 million Drams allegedly from common Yerevan residents.

Civil Contract fought back against requests to release the names of donors and when it finally did, after losing the court battle, Infocom was able to track down many donors, each of whom are reported to have donated millions of Drams, generally the maximum allowed which is 2.5 million Drams. However, when asked directly many of them denied making donations or recalled incidents when they were asked to sign bank slips indicating that they are making a cash donation. Many of the alleged donors lived in the same building or neighborhood or worked at the same company.

Just to sum it up, it appears that certain people convinced their neighbors or coworkers to falsely claim that the cash that was being donated to Civil Contract was being done by them.

Question:

  • What is your assessment of this revelation?

Aliyev “Elections”

Why now?

In Azerbaijan, “presidential elections” were scheduled for October of 2025, but 3 months ago Aliyev decided to hold them a couple of days ago, February 7. Elections are always a farce in Azerbaijan, and this time was no different; it was roundly slammed by observing international agencies. For months now Aliyev has been jailing journalists, opposition members, activists, and even international observers.

As a result, he secured more than 92% of the vote based on so-called “initial results”. Why go to the trouble though… Hasn’t Aliyev been following the news in Yerevan, where you can get only 9% of the votes, not win a majority, and still be able to form a “majority government!”

Look, we all know that elections in Azerbaijan are like choosing your favorite flavor of expired mayonnaise: you can pick between rancid, spoiled, or chunky… but no matter what, you’re still stuck with a nauseating taste! What we’d like to know is why now and what comes next.

Question:

  • What was the reason that Aliyev chose to hold snap elections now instead of October 2025?

EU Congratulates

Since his “election” victory, Aliyev was congratulated by the EU’s Charles Michel for a victory that the OSCE slammed as “neither free nor fair”. Let me re-emphasize this: we’re talking about the EUROPEAN Union’s co-president congratulating the so-called election of a dictator, whose election was slammed by the ORGANIZATION OF SECURITY AND COOPERATION OF EUROPE. What could be more hypocritical here?

Michel also said he “hoped” that Aliyev would return to Western sponsored talks with Armenia. Meanwhile Russia has further insisted that Armenia must agree to come to talks in Moscow.

Question:

  • It looks like both the west and Russia are turning up the pressure on Armenia and Azerbaijan to get back to talks, and each side demands that they broker the deal. Why?

Incidentally, just as an in-your-face to Armenians, Aliyev and family voted in Stepanakert. What’s tragic about Aliyev is that can’t get over his need to come back to the capital of a country that he just ethnically cleansed.

Questions:

  • How would talks now, after Aliyev’s renewed consolidation of power, be different from talks in the past year?
  • This past week we have again heard hints from Pashinyan allies that he may organize early elections. How would this change things, both within Armenia and also in the talks with Azerbaijan?
  • What does the future hold, how do you see the likelihood of a new war?

Armenia-Georgia Strategic Partnership

On January 26 Pashinyan was in Tbilisi and met with Georgian prime minister Irakli Gharibashvili. The two signed a strategic partnership between the two countries, which apparently encompasses a dozen areas, but leaves out defense cooperation. We have not seen this document, and a Georgian expert we just talked to, David Darchiashvili, thinks that perhaps at this point in time it’s a statement of intent and good will, more than a fleshed out agreement.

A couple of simple questions, because we’re going to run out of time.

Questions:

  • What does this strategic partnership mean for the two countries, and what tangible benefits can be expected from it?
  • Why was defense left out? Seems like an important component of any strategic partnership.

New MPG Poll

Methodology

Մեթոդաբանություն

Methodology

Foreign Policy Vector & Military Supplies

The next two questions we want to focus on are related to the respondent’s perception about Armenia’s foreign policy “integration” vector as well as military partnership. Both questions show a dramatic drop in Russia’s standing.

In your opinion, to which country or countries should Armenia’s integration vector be directed?

Ձեր կարծիքով ո՞ր երկիր, կամ երկրներ պետք է ուղղվի Հայաստանի ինտեգրման վեկտորը

Integration Vector

Responses to this question indicate that Russia, traditionally Armenia’s primary geopolitical partner is listed as #3. The #1 response, 48% of respondents was that Armenia should have equal relations between centers of influence. This is a stark difference from January 2023, when 29% of the people felt this way.

Questions:

  • Thoughts about this question?
  • In one way this sounds nice, sort of like the “complementary” foreign policy under Vartan Oskanian. However, can a small, severely weakened Armenia even afford to think about this?
    • NOTE: Frankly, for instance, Armen Grigoryan (national security council director) is talking about Armenia formally having “neutrality”.

From which countries can military and political aid be obtained? (several answers)

Ո՞ր երկրներից կարելի է ռազմաքաղաքական օգնություն ստանալ մեր երկրի համար (Մի քանի պատասխան)

Military Aid

In this category, Iran is #4 and Russia is #3 (after France, India, and USA). This is again a marked difference from January 2023 (a year ago), when Russia was #3 and Iran was #1.

Question:

  • How do you explain this shift in sentiment?

Pashinyan’s Rating and Sentiment About Political Parties

Key takeaways:

  • Pashinyan’s rating has dropped even lower, 29.0% compared to 33.6%.
  • Growing number of people (50.1%) want early parliamentary elections.
  • Civil contract support would be 16.1%.

How much do you trust RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan?

Որքանո՞վ եք վստահում ՀՀ վարչապետ Նիկոլ Փաշինյանին

Trust in Pashinyan

According to you, in order to solve the internal political situation, is it necessary to hold extraordinary parliamentary elections in RA?

Ըստ Ձեզ ներքաղաքական իրավիճակի լուծման համար արդյո՞ք ՀՀ-ում անհրաժեշտ են իրականացնել արտահերթ խորհրդարանական ընտրություններ

Necessity for Elections

If there are Parliamentary elections next Sunday, which party or alliance will you vote for?

Եթե առաջիկա կիրակի օրը լինեն Խորհրդարանական ընտրությունների, ո՞ր կուսակցության կամ դաշինքի օգտին կքվեարկեք

Supported Party

Thoughts from the Panelists

  • Hovik: Hypocrisy of EU slamming and congratulating election of a dictator - Aliyev
  • Hrant: Armenia’s constitution can not be changed with a push from Azerbaijan

Wrap-up

We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.

Guests

Hrant Mikaelian

Hrant Mikaelian

Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.

Hosts

Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.