Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as ARM by Abbreviationfinder, Armenia is in a period of turmoil. A new regime has the ambition to deal with corruption and failing justice systems.
The conditions for human rights are found in Armenian law. But in practice, the rights have not been fully respected. After the 2018 election, which was rejected by international election observers, extensive demonstrations erupted, resulting in Armenia’s new regime. The country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has stated ambitions to implement reforms in order to strengthen respect for human rights. It remains to be seen how it will turn out.
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The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and organization. Civil society can largely work freely. Demonstrations are allowed but during the previous regime it has happened that the police used disproportionately much force to disperse protesters.
By law, men and women are equal before the law, but gender discrimination occurs. Domestic violence is considered to be a widespread problem, although few cases are reported. In 2017, following a lengthy process, a law specifically aimed at domestic violence was passed. The proportion of women in parliament in 2017 was 18 percent. Armenia was ranked 98th in the World Economic Forum’s Index of Gender Equality in 146 countries in 2018.
Discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion is prohibited. But tolerance to religious minorities is limited. The Armenian Apostolic Church has official status as a national church and is accorded a special status in society in the Constitution. Among other things, the church has a strong influence over schools and local authorities. Harassment, violence and threats against LGBTQ people are frequent but rarely investigated by the police. In 2019, for the first time, a transgender was invited to Parliament to testify about the situation, but after the speech, received several death threats.
Corruption is widespread at most levels of society. Political and economic interests have often been intertwined. Holders of public office, including parliamentarians, rarely have personal connections with private companies. The new regime has high ambitions to curb corruption. In 2019, Transparency International ranked the country in 77th place in its index of perceived corruption in 180 states, which was a marked improvement over previous years.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of speech is generally respected, and private individuals as well as journalists can openly criticize the authorities without risking reprisals. However, the country’s traditional media tend to reflect the owner’s views, but on the Internet there is a more independent press that played an important role in the so-called velvet revolution 2018.
Reporters Without Borders places Armenia at 61 in its index of freedom of the press in 180 of the world’s countries by 2020, see list here. It was the same location as 2019, but then Armenia had a huge push upwards with 19 places compared to 2018.
Judicial system and legal security
The judiciary has repeatedly been criticized for submitting to the wishes of high politicians. People with great economic or political influence in society have been able to avoid prosecution or otherwise receive milder treatment. Impunity for police and military is a widespread problem. There are also reports of ill-treatment during police interrogations and that confessions that have been forced during violence have been used as evidence in trials. The standard in the country’s prisons is generally long. The death penalty was abolished in 2003.
The new regime has promised reform of the judiciary. In 2019, Pashinyan called on all judges whose judgments were rejected by the European Court of Human Rights to resign.
Gas imports are handled by Russia
In a session boycotted by the opposition, Parliament approves that the Russian energy company Gazprom takes full control of the Russian-Armenian joint venture ArmRosgazprom, which has so far been in Armenian ownership to 20 percent. The agreement means that Gazprom handles all Armenian gas imports until 2043.
Genocide deniers get court support
The European Court of Justice acquits a Turkish left-wing politician fined by the Swiss state for describing the details of a Armenian genocide in 1915 as “an international lie”. According to the court, “genocide” has such a narrow definition that it is difficult to prove. Swiss law criminalizing the denial of a Armenian genocide violates freedom of speech, according to the European Court of Justice.
Protests against Russian cooperation
As Russia’s President Vladimir Putin arrives in Armenia, hundreds of people in Yerevan are demonstrating that the government has decided to join the country in the Russian-led customs union instead of concluding a cooperation agreement with the EU. Putin offers Armenia to buy gas at a significantly lower price than other Russian customers and promises to lower the price of weapons sold to Armenia.
Presidential meeting of enemies
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet for the first time in almost two years and agree to give new impetus to concrete peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. Next, the country’s foreign ministers will meet the leaders of the so-called Minsk group within the OSCE, the ambassadors for Russia, France and the United States.
No support for recognizing outbreak state
A proposal by the Liberal Party Cultural Heritage to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state does not win parliamentary hearings. Only eleven of the 131 members participate in the vote, ten of whom support the proposal. The majority say that recognition would interfere with peace efforts. Armenia and Azerbaijan’s presidents will meet later in November to resume negotiations.
Presidential candidate is imprisoned
Former presidential candidate Vardan Sedrakyan is sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted murder of a rival in connection with the presidential election (see February 2013). Sedrakyan, who refuses all involvement, has ordered the murder, according to the court. Two other men are sentenced for interference, to 12 and 14 years respectively.
Protests against Russian approaching
Calls for a statement from the government why it has settled with Russia on trade cooperation without consulting the elected officials; The opposition announces protests against the president’s decision.
Armenia closer to Russia, away from the EU
President Serzh Sargsyan announces that Armenia will join the Russian-led Customs Union together with Belarus and Kazakhstan. The EU says that Armenia thus excludes the possibility of entering into a free trade and association agreement with the European Union, which was supposed to happen in November. Armenia’s decision is a diplomatic triumph for Russia, which also exposed Ukraine and Moldova to strong pressure to choose cooperation with Russia over the EU.
Armenian soldier is arrested in neighboring country
An Armenian soldier captured by Azerbaijani army after having strayed across the border at the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two hunger strikes in the presidential election
Hovhannisyan launches a hunger strike in protest of the election result. He cancels his campaign after a month but urges his supporters to continue protests.
Protests against election results
Thousands of people are protesting in Yerevan against the election result since Hovhannisyan was told in a meeting with the president that he would not agree to the re-election. The Central Election Commission formally states Sargsyan as the winner with 58.6 percent of the vote. Hovhannisyan embarks on a tour of the country and announces a new protest meeting in Yerevan. A formal protest against the voting result is filed with the Constitutional Court, which, however, rejects the appeal.
The President is re-elected
President Serzj Sargsyan is re-elected as expected for a new term in office. He is already securing victory in the first round of elections when, according to the election commission, he gets just over 58 percent of the vote. The two, former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannisyan, get 36.7 percent but accuse the Election Commission of cheating and refuse to admit defeat. The largest opposition parties have not even bothered to stand for counter-candidates. One candidate was shot some time before the election and another has hunger strike to try to get Sargsyan’s candidacy rejected. Another candidate demonstratively refrains from voting himself. OSCE observers say the election was calm and usually well-organized but that the public’s lack of interest suggests that Armenia has a long way to go to become a “dynamic and engaging democracy”.