NCI Examines Political Confrontation in Armenia

The National Citizens’ Initiative
75 Yerznkian Street
Yerevan 375033, Armenia
Tel: (+374 – 1) 27.16.00, 27.00.03
Fax: (+374 – 1) 52.48.46
E-mail: [email protected]

May 6, 2004

National Citizens’ Initiative Examines Political Confrontation in Armenia

Yerevan?The National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) resumed today its series of
specialized policy seminars on vital issues of concern for both the Republic
of Armenia and Armenians worldwide.

Raffi Hovannisian, founder of NCI and the Armenian Center for National and
International Studies (ACNIS), greeted the capacity audience with opening
remarks on the “Political Confrontation in Armenia: Causes, Effects, and
Solutions.” “Even a cursory analysis of the past few years demonstrates why
we have so frequently lost in the course of our history. In our heart of
hearts and in our inner consciousness, each of us knows that the situation
in the country, as it stands now, is not durable. Whether we consider last
year’s elections a cause or an effect, they evidenced the commission of a
big national mistake, the correction of which is crucial. We welcome the
ongoing dialogue on various levels-its very invitation, attempt, and
realization-yet we also know that it is the incumbent president’s
responsibility to initiate the corrective change in the state of affairs.
Otherwise, the opposite, however unpredictable, is inevitable. It is at this
level that we need an expedited and comprehensive resolution forged by
consensus. This is neither a prediction nor a threat, nor advice of any
kind. This simply is a public imperative,” he said.

ACNIS analyst Hovsep Khurshudian delivered a paper on the current state of
political culture in Armenia. “Since 1988 and 1991 political culture in
Armenia has faced a perilous retreat, and accountability for this lies first
and foremost with the authorities,” he opined, calling on the governing
coalition to join the opposition in fulfilling the obligations set forth in
the recent resolution of the Council of Europe. To this end he suggested
establishment of a parliamentary committee composed equally of coalition and
opposition members.

In his address entitled “Constitutional Procedures and ‘Legal’
Arbitrariness,” law professor Hrair Tovmasian noted: “It is manifest that
both the current and the draft Constitutions presented last year for
referendum, with their internal contradictions, incomplete checks and
balances, unclear accountability mechanisms, and powerful prerogatives
granted to the president, are not only useless in solving domestic
confrontations but also serve as their main cause. By means of systemic
change, the application of a parliamentary form of government in the
Republic of Armenia is the best way, in our opinion, to eliminate such
internal conflicts and to avoid them in the future,” he said.

Good governance analyst Karen Hakobian offered remarks on “Transfer of
Authority as a Mirror of Democracy: The Crises of Regime Change in Armenia
and in the Region.” “Armenia faces a crisis of authority and a governance
dilemma in general; hence, regime change becomes a necessity. But if there
are no established long-term socioeconomic and political objectives, if
there are no clear-cut and formulated models of good governance, one is
likely to encounter similar crises later on, this time during the reign of
the next administration. A change of regime should serve only as a means for
securing clearly defined public interests and the country’s development,” he

During the second session of the seminar, representatives of Armenia’s
political parties took the floor, Alexander Butaev and Albert Baghdasarian
representing the National Democratic Union, Albert Bazeyan of the Republic
Party, Hovhannes Hovhannisian of the Liberal Progressive Party, Gagik
Tadevosian of the National Unity Party, and Grigor Harutiunian of the People
‘s Party of Armenia. Of the invited coalition representatives only Galust
Sahakian and Mushegh Lalayan of the Republican Party attended the
roundtable. Mkrtich Minasian of the “People’s Deputy” parliamentary group
also took part in the discussion.

The interventions of the politicians and public figures were followed by
formal deliberations on possible ways out of the present situation.
Noteworthy were contributions by Armenian Intellectuals’ Forum chairman
General Edward Simoniants; economist Edward Aghajanov; Anahit Bakhshian,
principal of Derenik Demirchian High School in Yerevan; Davit Petrosian of
the Noyan Tapan News agency; Avetik Ishkhanian, chairman of Armenia’s
Helsinki Committee; Gayane Markosian of the “Harmonious World” NGO; Manuk
Haroutiunian, senior research fellow of the Institute of Philosophy and Law
at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia; Yerevan State University
lecturer Aram Haroutiunian; political analyst Artsrun Pepanian; and many

In particular, General Simoniants noted that “this meeting proves that it is
groundless to claim the lack of highly intelligent specialists in the search
for solutions to overcoming the crisis in the country. Unfortunately,
however, the bearers of this political benchmark are not united and
coordinated in academic and policy greenhouses such as this.” He regretted
the discontinuation of the opposition-coalition dialogue recently hosted by
ACNIS, and called for its resumption.

The National Citizens’ Initiative is a public non-profit association founded
in December 2001 by Raffi K. Hovannisian, his colleagues, and fellow
citizens with the purpose of realizing the rule of law and overall
improvements in the state of the state, society, and public institutions.
The National Citizens’ Initiative is guided by a Coordinating Council, which
includes individual citizens and representatives of various public,
scientific, and educational establishments. Five commissions on Law and
State Administration, Socioeconomic Issues, Foreign Policy, Spiritual and
Cultural Challenges, and the Youth constitute the vehicles for the
Initiative’s work and outreach.

For further information, please call (3741) 27-16-00 or 27-00-03; fax (3741)
52-48-46; e-mail [email protected]; or visit