Showing posts tagged as "karabakh conflict"

Showing posts tagged karabakh conflict

27 Jun
Armenia in the vice: Prisoner of history | The Economist
ARMENIA tends to feature in the news because of its problems (history, geography, demography and economics to name but a few. But a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) says not all is doom and gloom. The parliamentary elections in May showed significant improvement. Media coverage was more balanced, and the authorities permitted greater freedom of assembly, expression and movement than in previous years. Like Georgia, Armenia has a class of “30-something” technocrats, whose western education and global outlook means they are less rooted in the Soviet mentality than their elders. That bodes well for the future.
The economy is still recovering from the global financial crisis, which saw GDP contract by 14.2% in 2009. In the same period, the construction sector contracted by more than 40%. Remittances from the diaspora dropped by 30%. That led Forbes magazine to label Armenia the world’s second worst performing economy in 2011–much to Yerevan’s irritation. Although official statistics claim 8 percent unemployment, 48% of respondents told a recent survey they were looking for a job. Over one-third of the country lives below the poverty line. Complaints of corruption are widespread, and inflation is high.
FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)

Armenia in the vice: Prisoner of history | The Economist

ARMENIA tends to feature in the news because of its problems (history, geography, demography and economics to name but a few. But a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) says not all is doom and gloom. The parliamentary elections in May showed significant improvement. Media coverage was more balanced, and the authorities permitted greater freedom of assembly, expression and movement than in previous years. Like Georgia, Armenia has a class of “30-something” technocrats, whose western education and global outlook means they are less rooted in the Soviet mentality than their elders. That bodes well for the future.

The economy is still recovering from the global financial crisis, which saw GDP contract by 14.2% in 2009. In the same period, the construction sector contracted by more than 40%. Remittances from the diaspora dropped by 30%. That led Forbes magazine to label Armenia the world’s second worst performing economy in 2011–much to Yerevan’s irritation. Although official statistics claim 8 percent unemployment, 48% of respondents told a recent survey they were looking for a job. Over one-third of the country lives below the poverty line. Complaints of corruption are widespread, and inflation is high.

FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)

25 Jun
Armenia: An Opportunity for Statesmanship
Yerevan/Tbilisi/Istanbul/Brussels  |  25 Jun 2012
Unless Armenia’s next presidential election is fair and gives its winner a strong political mandate, the government will lack the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reforms, tackle corruption and negotiate a peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenia: An Opportunity for Statesmanship, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the challenges before a pivotal presidential vote early next year that will determine whether the country has shed its more than a decade and a half of fraud-tainted electoral history. Whoever is elected must accelerate implementation of much-needed governance and economic reforms and help restore  momentum to diplomatic efforts to tackle the long-running territorial conflict with Azerbaijan that poses a danger to regional stability.
“Another election perceived as seriously flawed would further distract from peace talks and severe economic problems”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s Caucasus Project Director. “The likely consequences would then be even more citizens opting out of democratic politics, as well as increased emigration”.
May’s competitive parliamentary elections produced positive signs, with more balanced media coverage and widely respected rights of free assembly, expression and movement. They also exposed longstanding issues. Widespread abuse of administrative resources; inflated voters lists; vote-buying; lack of sufficient redress for election violations; and reports of multiple voting have damaged trust in government bodies and institutions. It is crucial that the February 2013 vote, in which President Serzh Sargsyan will likely seek a second term, becomes “the cleanest elections in Armenian history”, as he had already promised the 2012 polls would be.
Though the president initially took bold steps, most noteworthy among them an attempt to normalise relations with Turkey, broader change has been slow. Political courage is needed to overhaul a deeply entrenched system in which big business and politics are intertwined, and transparency is lacking.
The economy remains unhealthily reliant on financial remittances from Armenians abroad. Rates of emigration and seasonal migration out of the country are alarmingly high. There have been few serious efforts to combat high-level corruption. The executive branch still enjoys overwhelming, virtually unchecked, powers. The judicial system is perceived as neither independent nor competent, and mechanisms to hold authorities accountable are largely ineffective. Media freedom is inadequate, with a glaring lack of diversity in television, from which most Armenians get their news.
To address these shortcomings and establish the basis for a free and fair election, the president should take the lead in encouraging authorities to pass a new criminal code, hold officials involved in corruption and elections abuses to account and increase civilian control of the police and independence of the judiciary. International partners should provide technical and financial assistance and hold the government accountable for any backsliding in reform.
“President Sargsyan has a window of opportunity, in advance of the 2013 elections, to demonstrate statesmanship and make Armenia a better place to live”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “A failure to embrace both immediate and long-term structural reforms would neither capitalise on Armenia’s strengths nor make for a good presidential campaign strategy”.
FULL REPORT

Armenia: An Opportunity for Statesmanship

Yerevan/Tbilisi/Istanbul/Brussels  |  25 Jun 2012

Unless Armenia’s next presidential election is fair and gives its winner a strong political mandate, the government will lack the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reforms, tackle corruption and negotiate a peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Armenia: An Opportunity for Statesmanship, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the challenges before a pivotal presidential vote early next year that will determine whether the country has shed its more than a decade and a half of fraud-tainted electoral history. Whoever is elected must accelerate implementation of much-needed governance and economic reforms and help restore  momentum to diplomatic efforts to tackle the long-running territorial conflict with Azerbaijan that poses a danger to regional stability.

“Another election perceived as seriously flawed would further distract from peace talks and severe economic problems”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s Caucasus Project Director. “The likely consequences would then be even more citizens opting out of democratic politics, as well as increased emigration”.

May’s competitive parliamentary elections produced positive signs, with more balanced media coverage and widely respected rights of free assembly, expression and movement. They also exposed longstanding issues. Widespread abuse of administrative resources; inflated voters lists; vote-buying; lack of sufficient redress for election violations; and reports of multiple voting have damaged trust in government bodies and institutions. It is crucial that the February 2013 vote, in which President Serzh Sargsyan will likely seek a second term, becomes “the cleanest elections in Armenian history”, as he had already promised the 2012 polls would be.

Though the president initially took bold steps, most noteworthy among them an attempt to normalise relations with Turkey, broader change has been slow. Political courage is needed to overhaul a deeply entrenched system in which big business and politics are intertwined, and transparency is lacking.

The economy remains unhealthily reliant on financial remittances from Armenians abroad. Rates of emigration and seasonal migration out of the country are alarmingly high. There have been few serious efforts to combat high-level corruption. The executive branch still enjoys overwhelming, virtually unchecked, powers. The judicial system is perceived as neither independent nor competent, and mechanisms to hold authorities accountable are largely ineffective. Media freedom is inadequate, with a glaring lack of diversity in television, from which most Armenians get their news.

To address these shortcomings and establish the basis for a free and fair election, the president should take the lead in encouraging authorities to pass a new criminal code, hold officials involved in corruption and elections abuses to account and increase civilian control of the police and independence of the judiciary. International partners should provide technical and financial assistance and hold the government accountable for any backsliding in reform.

“President Sargsyan has a window of opportunity, in advance of the 2013 elections, to demonstrate statesmanship and make Armenia a better place to live”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “A failure to embrace both immediate and long-term structural reforms would neither capitalise on Armenia’s strengths nor make for a good presidential campaign strategy”.

FULL REPORT

21 Feb

RFE/RL: Azerbaijan To Reform Military Conscription

Liz Fuller

Eighteen months after the belated adoption of a new military doctrine that pinpoints the continued occupation of Azerbaijani territory by Armenian forces as a major threat, Azerbaijan has finally embarked on structural reform of its armed forces.

In recent years, Baku has doubled defense spending, from over $2 billion in 2009 to $4.4 billion for 2012. At the same time, senior officials have warned repeatedly that in the absence of a political settlement to the Karabakh conflict, a “military solution” is the only alternative. Whether massive cash injections alone can transform armed forces that were described in an International Crisis Group (ICG) report released three years ago as “fragmented, divided, accountable-to-no-one-but-the-president, un-transparent, corrupt, and internally feuding” is questionable, however.

Initial measures unveiled last week focus on modernizing conscription, one of several spheres within the armed forces where corruption is reportedly endemic. Military service is mandatory in Azerbaijan for men between the ages of 18 and 35. The ICG report noted that many conscripts’ families pay bribes to military commissars in order to avoid front-line duty by being sent to serve in other units such as the Interior troops.

As a first step, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has issued a decreeabolishing the district military commissariats subordinate to the Defense Ministry and establishing in their place a civil State Service for Mobilization and Induction into Military Service, which held its first session on February 15. 

FULL ARTICLE (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)