Russia’s prime minister Vladimir Putin published an article in the Russian daily Izvestia, stating that the current Customs Union and Common Economic Space which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and soon Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well, will, in the future form the basis for a Eurasian Union.
May 31 is the date that marks the first constitutional opportunity to popularly elect the leadership of Yerevan, home to nearly half of Armenia's population.
This is history-in-the-making for two reasons: Not only does the electorate have a chance to decide who best represents their vision for their city; but, inarguably more important for Armenians at this time, the political forces have a chance to decide whether they trust the people to make such a decision.
Elections are not the only standard by which to judge a democracy. But certainly they are an indispensable standard. These are not theoretical political concepts. This means -- are we determined that we can and will become a country where the people choose who governs them, and where those who govern feel accountable to the people? That's the simple question which each election forces us to ask.
The question is even more urgent today. The Yerevan city elections come just a year after a cynical presidential election and a disastrous follow-up. The ensuing political climate -- from paralyzing polarization to hopeless apathy -- has impacted individual lives and our collective future.
The Yerevan city elections offer a remedial opportunity, a chance to regain faith in ourselves and those who live with us, those who purport to govern us, those who wish to lead us. It's hard to say who bears the greatest burden in this formula. But certainly, the responsibility is on those in power and wishing to attain power.
We have often said, stability in Georgia is as important as Armenia’s own stability. And the consistently unpredictable situation there raises alarm and poses questions.
Event On May 3, Armenia, along with the rest of the world, celebrated World Press Freedom Day. Two days earlier, Freedom House, the New-York based NGO which promotes freedom around the world, released a list of countries ranked by the degree of media freedom in each. Armenia is included among the “Not Free” countries, and ranks 151, along with Singapore. In a previous Freedom House report, Armenia was in 144th place, near Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, the Maldives, Moldova and Pakistan.
Event March 22 marked the deadline for political parties to register to compete in Yerevan’s first direct popular elections for Yerevan City Council. The election will take place on May 31. The leader of the victorious party will become the mayor of Yerevan. Six political parties registered: The Republican Party, the Prosperous Armenia party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Dashnaktsutyun, the Rule of Law party, the People’s Party, and the Socialist Labor Party, as did the Armenian National Congress, the assembly of several political parties, led by former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian. The only opposition party represented in Parliament, led by Raffi Hovannisian, chose not to participate, following long and quasi-public negotiations with the Ter-Petrossian team.
The Event Daily flights between Tbilisi and Yerevan are to begin March 16. This welcome news in relations between the two countries was followed by a surprisingly public spat between the offices of the two presidents. The verbal exchange is in sharp contrast to the warm talk that took place during the February visit of two senior Georgian officials – Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze -- paid official two-day visits to Yerevan late last month. While public statements played up positive trends in bilateral relations, both sides made the point that there are no problems that cannot be resolved jointly through "constructive dialogue" -- a tacit admission that problems do indeed exist, and that past pledges to resolve them may not always have been sincere or systematically implemented.
Event The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is currently chairman decided in an early February summit in Moscow to establish a Rapid Reaction Force that would be deployed to counter military threats against members of that organization, among other purposes. This decision coincided with the creation of a Russian stability fund for CSTO members. Specifically, two financial grants were announced – one with Kyrgyzstan and one to Armenia. Just days later, at the 45th Munich International Security Conference, US Vice President Joseph Biden spoke of a new framework for American foreign policy generally and for relations with Russia in particular.
Event As a result of the last discussion on the situation in Armenia, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) did not impose sanctions, but Armenia ‘gained’ one more resolution.