Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hopefully the Last Monolithic Post on the Presidential Election

I just got internet at home, so my posting should be a little more regular from now on. This also means I won’t ever need to have a ginormous post like this one again.

Student Protests

Today was the third day of the students protesting, and it’s getting tough for them. School administrators, other students and the police have aligned against the protesters and are stopping them from spreading their message at the school. Hetq’s reporter overhears some of the police criticizing the protestors as not true Armenians and having “alien” values. In an even stronger reminder of last year’s pro-diversity march, the reporter notes that the protestors are a mix of genders while the opposing students are all male. (more photos)

One political commenter supports the general protests but not the student protests because the student protests have nothing “to do with education.” Political education and engagement may not be taught in textbooks, but it’s hard to say those aren’t connected with education.

I work in the old Yerevan State University black building, and yesterday I saw a number of orange sheets of paper with “Բարև” (“Hello”) written on them, referring to the #barevolution theme. They were all gone by this morning.

Other Protests

Yesterday, Hovannisian went out to the regions to do another round of protests while giving the yerevantci a rest. Amusingly, the police blocked the road as the government regularly asks them to do to stop people from assembling. The problem is that they blocked the road to Yerevan, not from it. The government is not used to an opponent that willingly leaves the center of power because they don’t think of regions as a source of power except during an election.

Yesterday, people in Yerevan protested in front of the embassies of countries that have congratulated the President.

The protest in front of the Glendale consulate office gathered around 100 residents. The organizer said that the protest will be repeated every Sunday until Sargsyan gives up power.

Are you Down with the System? (terrible pun, I know)

One amusing episode of this election conflict is Serj Tankian’s (from System of a Down) open letter exchange with Serzh Sargsyan. Yesterday, Serj wrote Serzh a letter “congratulating” him on his victory. My favorite line: “That’s quite funny isn’t it? That you, the President of Armenia are not really sure, deep inside, whether you are the true chosen leader of your people or not.”

Amazingly, Serzh responded later that day! Here is the President who has kept quiet during all of these protests officially write a response to a US rock star. While the letter’s terrible English is laughable, the real significance is that the President was willing to communicate and explain himself with a Diasporan but not to his own people.

Serj wrote a second letter where he points out that the President didn’t answer any of his questions. Amusingly and confusingly, one of Sargsyan’s spokespeople said that Serzh “agrees with Tankian on the overwhelming majority of the questions raised.”

What Comes Next

Tomorrow, Raffi gets back into Yerevan and will be hosting another rally. The bigger news is the rally on March 1st, the anniversary of the use of force against protesters after the last election that resulted in (officially) ten deaths. I’ve heard from people with family in the military that the real number is around 30, but I obviously can’t prove that. The ANC typically has a March 1 rally, but as Heritage got the permit first, ANC is cancelling its protest and instead telling people to join with Raffi at Myasnikyan square.

The National Assembly will discuss the “consequences of this post-election situation and put forward proposals to ease this tension.” Who knows what that means and what the Republicans (who have a majority in the National Assembly) will allow or push through.

Assorted links (Enjoy!)

  • Mayors who “failed” the Republican party by having Raffi win in their areas are resigning. The obvious rumor is that they’re being forced out. Because of the trend of resignations only in areas where Sargsyan lost, there’s rumors that the Sargsyan is rejecting one mayor’s resignation to break the trend of resigning mayors. (Armavir is happy their mayor resigned, wishing it happened sooner.). Today, Sargsyan rejected the resignation, putting him back in power, to the annoyance of many of the citizens.
  • Prosperous Armenia’s position is interesting. Their vague statement  shows that they don’t want to join the opposition, but then aren’t going to blindly support the government. Perhaps Prosperous will try to use the opposition as a bargaining chip to extract more power from the government? Even if they might slightly prefer the opposition to the Republicans, they might be worried about becoming the de facto 3rd party rather than the de facto 2nd party in Armenian politics. “Hey look, we’re still relevant!”
  • The Human Rights Defender is pushing the police to releasing the information regarding the electoral fraud claims they rejected.
  • Stunningly, the police are charging someone with election fraud. It’s only the head of a village and not anyone of importance, but something is better than nothing (remembering that the police literally investigated and charged no one with any type of electoral fraud in last year’s parliamentary election).
  • Amusingly, Azerbaijan is highly critical of Turkey congratulating the President for his reelection.
  • A great in-depth article on the difference between Raffi’s goals and the popular movement.
  • Ianyan magazine has two great articles about the election.
  • 19 NGOs say the election “had no precedent[] in terms of public distrust” and demand a publication of the signed voter list. Considering that the Constitutional Court rejected this demand last year, it’s not likely anything is going to happen this time.
  • Raffi met with the Russian ambassador yesterday. While Raffi is often painted as a solidly pro-west candidate, there are a number of factors that make that not quite so, which I hope to get to in another blog post.
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A1+ has a great video (in Armenian) covering the protests from previous contested election results. The Armenian Observer mentions four differences between this protest and previous ones. I think these differences are critical as the government doesn’t know how to respond to this new style of challenging the government. They know they can’t use force, but at the same time they don’t know what to do when Hovannisian politely meets with the President and acts civilly.
I disagree with the Observer about March 1st being the the “final deadline.” There is no doubt that the protest on March 1 will be massive with the protesters expecting trouble. It would be insane for the government to react forcefully on the 1st. And, for all the criticism you might want to give the government, they’re not insane. If Hovannisian wants to go for all or nothing, then he might make a grand statement that day, otherwise I don’t see anything of critical importance happening on that symbolic day.

The Armenian Observer Blog


A1plus is presenting this great archive video with lessons of the past about Armenia’s post-election developments. My main takeaway – all past elections have ended in post-election developments, but opposition has never won. However, things are different this time:

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Yet more Statistical Evidence of Electoral Fraud

The statisticians are out in force analyzing the recent election (and leaving my little analysis in the dust). Besides the recent Policy Forum Armenia analysis, there are two new analyses that both point to large-scale electoral fraud. Both of them are in Russian, but the former has a number of graphs in English. Overall, these works are great stuff that should become standard practice for any place that has questionable elections.

 

A comparison of the victors and the main opposition in UK's 2010 election and Armenia's 2013 election. The Republican Party votes break the pattern.

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From the University Halls and the Parliament to the Street

Yesterday, Raffi had called on students to walk out of school and that’s what they did. I sadly couldn’t attend the protest, but I was one of the 1600 people watching on the live stream. I’m not the only one who couldn’t attend the protest as education directors told students that they’d face negative consequences, with the possibility of expulsion, if they attended the rally. If fear wasn’t enough, supposedly the police blocked the doors to the medical university, forcing students to jump the side fence to get out and attend the rally. Pictures of the students jumping the fence are all over facebook. [Addition: supposed photo of jumping and a video of the protest]. This minor escalation of force by the police isn’t enough to start fears of another March 1 event, but Raffi still declared yesterday that he’d sacrifice his life to prevent bloodshed. Hopefully the situation never develops where he has to follow through with his promise.

Yesterday was also an important day because it was the first day of the new session of the National Assembly. Unsurprisingly, the National Assembly was totally consumed with the election. Oppositional MPs are pushing for an extraordinary sitting to resolve the election, with Republicans wanting to get past the issue.

Yesterday should also be important because that  is when the CEC announced the official results. But, as everyone already knew they were simply going to reiterate the preliminary results, nothing interesting was said. They did reject Raffi’s call for the disqualification of Sargsyan and, more importantly, stated that there were only 10 applications for vote recounts and that those recounts could not change the overall result.

One open question is what Prosperous Armenia is going to do. They’ve been vague with their empty “pledge to stand by the people.” Prosperous, a party full of businessmen and a former coalition partner with the Republican Party, doesn’t want to paint itself as a bunch of oppositionists. And, it’s leaders definitely don’t want to be seen as following Raffi. In comparison, considering ARF-D and ANCs near-irrelevance, they’re quite happy to join with Raffi. Vartan Oskanian (the one being investigated by the NSS, an investigation possibly started to ensure Oskanian doesn’t run for president), a member of Prosperous Armenia, met with OSCE, likely to help them understand the public anger and save face when they publish the final report.

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Policy Forum Armenia: “Our results strongly indicate that the final outcome of February 2013 election was subject to massive manipulations….”

Policy Forum Armenia came out with its statistical analysis of the election six hours after mine came out. There preliminary report is  more comprehensive than my blog post as they do three tests while I only do one. Thankfully, they did the one test I did and came to the same conclusion: the data suggests electoral manipulation in the regions while inconclusive in Yerevan. This is excellent evidence of systemic fraud that Hovannisian can use to go to the Constitutional Court or to call for a re-do.

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#BAREVolution

First a link roundup, then discussion about what’s going on.

  • The Atlantic has a good overview for those joining us late.
  • Here is a phenomenal photo collection of the first rally in Freedom Square. It’s actually really interesting how it seems like a majority of the participants are older. The young certainly are present as well, but they are not the majority. When I asked a local friend of mine what why that was the case she said that many of her friends were told before the election that if they voted for Raffi, they’d be fired. They still voted for Raffi, trusting in the secrecy of the vote, but cannot show their support publically. Apparently those in some position of power where Raffi won are facing similar pressure.
  • One Heritage representative says the best deal possible would be for Heritage to join a new coalition government. So far it seems like Raffi is rejecting any offers to join with the government.
  • The city government of Yerevan said that rallies after the 22nd would be illegal as the local government has refused to authorize rallies between the 23rd and 25th. The logic is that they require a week notice, which is obviously impossible for these post-election rallies and could not have been given for the previous rallies. Hovannisian responded by holding very successful rallies in Gyumri and Vanadzor and in unplanned Aparan.
  • Hovannisian also held an unauthorized rally today in Yerevan, with an estimated 4,000 supporters. Thankfully Hovannis             ian kept it short and the police did not interfere too much. The police made an official statement about the illegality of the rally, including cutting off the electricity to the speakers. They then returned power and Hovannisian was able to finish his speech. For the record, if the police did forcibly disperse the crowd, the government would likely be found in violation of the right to freedom of assemblies by the European Court of Human Rights, but this view is debatable. The fact that the rally was unathortized doesn’t make it ipso facto illegal.
  • Protests also occurred in New York and LA.
  • The Ombudsman’s Office issued a press release (in Armenian) about the few hundred calls they received on the election. One of main issues people reported was bribes.
  • An anti-OSCE protest occurred on the 22nd. The protestors were angry over OSCE’s glossing over of election fraud and thus implicitly legitimizing the authorities.
  • A report I missed from earlier, Yerevan Press Club said that the media was neutral in its coverage of the campaigns. Unfortunately, that same media has chosen to ignore a number of the significant protestor events, creating an information vacuum for the public.

 

Overall, Raffi has been promoting peaceful resistance and activism. He’s asking students to walk out of class tomorrow at 11am to join in yet another rally. So far this strategy may have been the reason that the government hasn’t done much to limit his activity. Unlike Levon Ter-Petrossian’s fiery anti-government speeches in 2008, Raffi is not calling for violence. (For another comparison of now to 2008, here is a nice blog post.) The government is allegedly still trying to impede his actions (e.g. they closed the road to Yerevan from Gyumri today, allegedly to limit people from joining the protest), but any overt action on their end would lack even the preface of legitimacy like they had in 2008. While Andreas Ghoukasyan has called for civil disobedience, Hovannisian continues to reiterate that this was a win for the freedom of the people of Armenia and to remain peaceful. How Hovannisian wants to push for that freedom still remains to be seen.

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First Impression from Presidential Election Turnout Results implies Manipulation

Here’s the big piece I was alluding to in my last post:

First glance impression from data on Armenia’s recent Presidential Election: Manipulation?

As part of my work at CRRC, I conducted a statistical analysis of the precinct turnouts. I looked at the last digit of each of the turnouts to see if the last digit is random, as it should be. My results found that it’s statistically improbable for the digits to be random. This implies the data has been manipulated. It doesn’t say how or why the data was manipulated, whether for nefarious or innocent purposes, or whether it was purposeful or accidental, but the data is likely to be manipulated.Graph on possible manipulation

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