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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 said.

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 others.

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.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian, and supported by the Lincy Foundation and a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2004, the Center focuses primarily on public outreach, civic education, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

For further information on the Center and its activities, call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; e-mail root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am

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