Armenia: Political Blogging Intensifies

The past week was eventful, and while the traditional media in Armenia were pondering their adequate response so as to avoid “unnecessary complications”, the Armenian Internet community were discussing the comings and goings of the current political scene at full speed.

The start of the week was marked by yet another scandal surrounding the Constitutional Right Union (CRU) party[AM] with its chairman, Hrant Khachatryan, slapping the deputy chairman, Haik Babukhanyan, in public for the second time in a year after the latter invaded the party headquarters with a group of supporters backed by police.

Another picturesque moment came as the head of People's Party Tigran Karapetyan visited Gyumri [AM] and lit special candles, painted in the tricolors of the Armenian flag.

According to many bloggers, although they were hardly serious about this, burning the candles was the equivalent of burning the Armenian flag — something very offensive for the state. On the other hand, some noted, if the red colour stripe burned down, the remaining part of the candle would resemble the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.

The Kornelij Glas blog is surprised with the stance of the opposition Heritage party [RUS]. After their leader was denied registration as a presidential candidate, the party sent out questionnaires to other opposition forces in order to determine which candidate they would support instead.

Now, the party announces that they won't support anyone unless at least two opposition candidates join forces. The blogger wonders for how much longer the party will linger with their decision: “Till April perhaps?”.

Dildoyan has many questions for government candidate Serzh Sargsyan [RUS] about the infamous Armenicum drug which was supposed to be a cure for HIV/AIDS in the late 90s and which would have made the country rich, the terrorist act in the Armenian parliament on 27 October 1999 when Sargsyan was the minister of State Security, and also the surrender of strategic industrial complexes to Russia.

The blogger also has some suggestions to improve the speeches of the opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian, saying that he should include the following in his texts:

To the Authorities: Let My People Vote!

You are putting my people under constant pressure – offering bribes in exchange for their vote, intimidating them, using your proxies to bully them, blackmailing them, threatening them with the loss of their jobs and livelihoods. Your pundits are bombarding the air with their phony prognoses of the win in the first round. Leave my people alone! Let my people vote! Move out of their way! Remember – you will not get away with your machinations, not this time. I will not let you.

To the voters: You've gotta fight for the right to party!

People, be vigilant. Do not trade in your vote, and with it your integrity and dignity, for the money they have stolen from you in the first place. Get out to the voting stations and vote! For me or against me – not important. Cast your vote, do not let the crooks steal it or stuff those boxes with their fakes. Wake up! Stand up! You will remember the day for years to come and feel proud. I am with you. We are in this together.

With one paragraph, A1plus blog sums up the start of the official pre-election campaign(AM):

The campaign begins with Artashes Geghamyan's formula of bringing people into the mainstream and the presentation of his “Program of Genesis”, Vazgen Manukyan's meeting with youth and motto of taking charge of the country, Levon Ter-Petrossian's announcement about “sacrificing his head to save the country during his trip to the provinces, Vahan Hovhannisyan's festive singing and dancing with “his friends”, and Rule of Law speculations on divisions in government as a clear sign of a possible second round where the opposition can also join forces…

Regardless, the former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian, remains the most discussed person in the Blogosphere with the F5 blog joining the electorate of this candidate [AM] and urging everyone to “Help each other destroy this corrupt pyramid weighing on our future and the future of our children”.

On the other hand, Gazan2008 explains why he hates Ter-Petrossian so much [AM].

“I hate him because of all those numerous brilliant young people, who made me proud not so long ago. For those, who were “sksela”, “alternative”, “rock” and who smelled of freedom and freshness. I hate him, because his appearance broke that mind-set and sprit once again, turning a large crowd of free young people into puppets of his insatiable arrogance”.

Following the Armenian elections from the UK via satellite TV, Unzipped notes some balanced media coverage on the first of official presidential election campaign, contrasting it with the pre-official campaign period:

“In December on the Armenian air the negative references to the first RA President Levon Ter-Petrosian continue to dominate. In other words, during the last month of 2007 the unprecedented phenomenon, recorded in November, continued when the share of neutral editorial coverage of an Armenian politician quantitatively fell behind that of negative: 103 negative references to Levon Ter-Petrosian versus 100 neutral ones and 4 positive ones. At the same time the share of negative ones in the total number of references has somewhat gone down in December – 49.8% versus 58.7% – in November. “


Anyway, today was a different story – Armenian media behaved as it should have behaved always. If it only continues this trend over the whole election period and beyond… Media monitoring by international and local agencies played important role in putting pressure on government and Public TV via mainly European/US influential bodies, and is as vital as ever to ensure continuous fair coverage of presidential campaign.

Civilized discussions finished on this. Following the publication of the list of presidential candidate websites on The Armenian Observer blog, an outburst of interest towards those sites by the Armenian Internet community followed. Reporter_arm found a section of personal photos [AM] on the website of the prime minister, presidential candidate Serzh Sargsyan's website, which became the dominant topic of blog discussions for the rest of the week.

Viewing the childhood photos of the prime minister made Samvel Martirosyan finally realise that Sargsyan is also human [AM]. However, photos of the prime minister playing chess, with a book entitled “Napoleon” specifically brought to foreground, and a number of other photos in the unofficial photo series brought about a highly sarcastic response.

The choice of symbolisms picked by the prime minister made bloggers comment, and usually comment with humor.

The mockery of Prime Minister's photos further strengthened after the unofficial website in support of opposition candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian posted a sideshow where with appalling negligence of all ethical norms and morality the photos taken from Serzh Sargsyan's website were edited and commented out in a way as to present the government presidential candidate as a “mafia” boss, gambler and a devilish personality.

To balance it out, the Nothing Else Matters… blog posted Ter-Petrossian's photo which, according to the blogger, is so scary that there is no need to further edit it.

The week concluded with the appearance of the Levonator and Serzhadevil (see photos posted at the start of this article) which completely frustrated some of the more balanced Bloggers. Ogostos was one of them and called for bloggers to stop making fun of the photos of candidates and to return to a more acceptable level of debate.


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