Category Archives: Armenia


Armenia – Update

At there is a useful update on the political situation in Armenia.

It reports that, unsurprisingly, President Serzh Sarkisian has been re-elected as head of the ruling HHK party. More interestingly, though, it gives an overview of some of the pressures that President Sarkisian is facing within the HHK party. From a semi-presidential perspective, it is significant that, even in highly presidentialised Armenia, the opponents to President Sarkisian’s policy seem to be targeting the prime minster as a way of trying to bring about change.

In addition, the article also reports on the potentially significant development whereby former president and now de facto leader of the opposition, Levon Ter-Petrosian, has offered to support the regime in return for changes to the country’s political process. President Ter-Petrosian has also defended the controversial deal between the Armenian government and Turkey that has been criticised by nationalists.

Armenia – Report on 1999 coup

There is a very interesting article on Armenia in the RFE/RL Features section. It reflects on the impact of the attempted coup in 1999 when gunmen forced their way into the legislature and opened fire, killing, among others, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian. The argument in the article is that the events directly contributed to the collapse of democracy by encouraging power to be concentrated in the hands of President Robert Kocharian.

In terms of background, there is a useful piece by Stephan Astourian in Caucasus and Central Asia Newsletter (Spring 2000). There is also material on the trial of the gunmen in Eurasia Insight.

Armenia – Update

There are one or two developments in Armenia that I have missed. So, here is a brief update.

Armenia lost its Freedom House designation as an electoral democracy in 2003. Currently, it has a Freedom House score of 5, which places it only just in the Partly Free category.

There were considerable constitutional amendments in November 2005. These had the effect of changing the system from a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism to a premier-presidential form. The original 1995 version is available here. The 2005 version is available here. In terms of the form of semi-presidentialism, the key article is Art. 55-4.

The last parliamentary elections were in May 2007. The Republican Party (HHK) won 64/131 seats. In February 2008 Serzh Sargsyan, also of the HHK, won the presidential election, taking over from Robert Kocharyan who was term-limited.

Following the 2007 legislative elections a four-party coalition was formed, comprising the HHK, the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) party, Rule of Law (Orinats Yerkir) party, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Together, these parties had 107 seats in the legislature. The main opposition to the government is headed by the former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian of the Armenian National Congress.

Anyway, in April 2009 the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a nationalist party, withdrew its three ministers from the coalition. reports that they withdrew because the Armenian and Turkish governments had reached an agreement to ‘normalise’ relations.

Then, on 31 May municipal elections were held in Yerevan. This was the first such election. Until the November 2005 constitutional amendments, the President of the Republic appointed the mayor of Yerevan.

The results were as follows:

Republican Party (HHK): 186,630 (47.43%) – 35 seats
Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK): 89,131 (22.65%) – 17 seats
Armenian National Congress Alliance (HAK): 69,140 (17.57%) – 13 seats (declined to take them)
Rule of Law Party (OEK): 20,106 (5.11%)
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun): 18,094 (4.60%)
People’s Party (ZhK): 8,479 (2.15%)
Labor Socialist Party of Armenia (HASK): 1,936 (0.49%)

There is a 7 per cent threshold for individual parties and a 9 per cent threshold for alliances.

There was one international electoral observation mission from the Chamber of Local authorities of the Council of Europe. The report is available here. It tries to be positive, but notes some serious problems.

SP in disputed areas and other territories (1) – Nagorno-Karabakh

This is the first of an occasional series on semi-presidentialism in areas other than internationally recognised states. I am focusing on areas that have full constitutions. However, these areas are not recognised by the international community as independent states. They may be territories that have declared independence but whose status has not been internationally recognised or they may simply be self-governing units under the protection of another state – territories like Greenland, or the Isle of Man.

The first example is Nagorno-Karabakh. This region is officially part of Azerbaijan. It has a substantial Armenian population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature declared independence. However, this was not recognised by either Azerbaijan or the international community. There has been ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over this region since this time and indeed well before. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has a high degree of de facto independence.

In December 2006 a referendum was held that approved a constitution for the territory. The result of the vote was not internationally recognised. However, given the area enjoys a degree of de facto autonomy, political leaders within the area have declared it to be the basic constitutional document governing the area. The text is available here. (Prior to the referendum my understanding is that the territory used a series of laws to govern its internal affairs and that there was no consolidated constitutional document).

The 2006 constitution has clear semi-presidential elements:

Article 62
1. The President of the Republic shall be elected by the citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic for a five-year term of office.
Article 99 
3. The Government shall be composed of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministers.
Article 97
1. The National Assembly may adopt by a majority vote of no confidence towards the Government.

However, it is not entirely clear what happens if a vote of no-confidence is passed. There is also a quite complicated role for the legislature in the appointment of the prime minister and government (Article 100).

The most recent presidential election was in July 2007. The winner was Bako Sahakyan, who ran as an independent and who won over 85% of the vote. The last legislative election was held in June 2005. I believe the government is a coalition of the Democratic Party of Artsakh and the Free Motherland party. The opposition appears to have only 3 seats in the 32-seat legislature.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are, of course, themselves semi-presidential.

Semi-presidentialism in the FSU – When did it begin?

The Former Soviet Union (FSU) is the home of a number of semi-presidential countries. In terms of their current constitutions, there are some unequivocal cases of semi-presidentialism: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. Previously, Moldova was unequivocally semi-presidential too. The situation in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is a little more ambiguous. In both cases, parliament ratifies the president’s decrees that appoint and dismiss the prime minister. It is debatable as to whether this is sufficient to constitute a semi-presidential constitution. The level of responsibility to parliament is low and, in any case, responsibility is only individual and not collective.

Sticking to the unequivocal cases, the question is when do we date the start of semi-presidentialism? In the case of Georgia, the answer is easy. As per a previous post, it became semi-presidential in 2004 after a constitutional amendment. For the other countries, the dates of the first independence constitutions are as follows: Armenia (1995), Azerbaijan (1995), Belarus (1994), Kazakhstan (1993), Kyrgyzstan (1993), Lithuania (1992), Moldova (1994), Russia (1993) and Ukraine (1996).

While these are the dates of the first constitutions, it is common to think of semi-presidentialism starting earlier. This is because in the period immediately following the declaration of independence, and prior to the passage of the new constitution, most of these countries grafted a directly elected president onto the existing Soviet-era constitution. So, for example, the first presidential elections under Soviet-era constitutions were held as follows: Armenia (1991), Azerbaijan (1992), Kazakhstan (1991), Kyrgyzstan (1991), Moldova (1991), Russia (1991) and Ukraine (1991). Given these constitutions were, nominally, parliamentary, this combination of a direct presidential election and a parliamentary system seems to create the conditions for semi-presidentialism. (In Belarus and Lithuania, the first direct presidential elections took place under the first independence constitution. So, there is no doubt about when they began to be semi-presidential.)

All the same, I think we have to be a little careful as to when we date the beginning of semi-presidentialism and for two reasons. Firstly, I am not sure that there are consolidated constitutional documents prior to the passage of the first constitutions. Certainly, I have been unable to find them. If they do exist, then please let me know where to get hold of them. In the absence of a consolidated document, it is to difficult to verify the start date of semi-presidentialism. Secondly, even if there were consolidated documents, would they indicate semi-presidentialism? According to the 1978 constitutions of the socialist republics of the USSR, it is certainly the case that the Council of Ministers was responsible to the parliament (Supreme Soviet) and that there was a person who occupied the position of Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Moreover, prime ministers certainly existed in the newly independent countries from an early point: Armenia (1990), Azerbaijan (1991), Kazakhstan (1991), Kyrgyzstan (1991), Moldova (1990), Russia (1991) and Ukraine (1990). Again, though, in the absence of consolidated documents, it is difficult to verify the specific start date of semi-presidentialismism. Were there other amendments to the constitution apart from just the direct election of the president? Were there changes to the status of the prime minister and cabinet? And so on.

The precise start date of semi-presidentialism can be important because a couple of these countries experienced a brief period of democracy but then collapsed. For example, according to Freedom House Azerbaijan was a partial democracy in 1991 and 1992, but collapsed in 1993. The same is true for Kazakhstan from 1991-93 before its collapse in 1994. Studies about the positive or negative effects of semi-presidentialism on partial democracies do not have a large number of cases to go on. Therefore, the decision about whether or not to include two collapses is potentially important. If anyone has any comments, then please let me know.

Recent changes of PM

In addition to the new prime ministers in Haiti, Sao Tome and South Korea, all of which I have recorded at some point in the blog, there have been some other changes recently as well.

In Tanzania, Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda was appointed as PM on 9 February. The previous PM, Edward Lowassa, resigned because of a corruption scandal.

In Armenia, the newly elected president, Serzh Azati Sarkisyan, appointed a new PM, Tigran Sarkisyan, on 9 April. Prime Minister Sarkisyan is the former head of the Armenian Central Bank. Tesaket reports that PM Sarkisyan’s appointment might be seen as a concession to the protest movement that occurred following President Sarkisyan’s contested election in February. However, the appointment had been mooted before and, in all probability, it is at least as much, if not more, of a signal to the international community that the economic situation in Armenia will be well managed.

In the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadéra was appointed as PM on 22 January. CAR has been experiencing social unrest in recent times and the resignation of the previous PM, Élie Doté, is linked to this situation. Jeuneafrique reports that Doté’s resignation occurred just before a motion of no-confidence was about to be debated in parliament. Prime Minister Touadéra is a technocrat. He is a mathematician and he held the position of University rector prior to his appointment, but we mustn’t hold that against him!

Election results – Armenia (presidential)

The Central Election Commission of Armenia has provided results of the presidential election on 19 February.

The results show that prime minister Serzh Sarkisian won 52.9 per cent compared with 21.5 per cent for his nearest rival, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian. Arthur Baghdasarian won 11.7 per cent and Vahan Hovhanesian won 6.2 per cent.

On the basis of these results Sarkisian is elected as president without the need for a second round of voting.

The election result has been is contested as fraudulent by elements of the opposition. There are mass protests in Yerevan.