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Politics of Armenia

Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a September 1991 referendum, followed by a presidential election in October 1991 that gave 83% of the vote to Levon Ter-Petrossian[?]. Ter-Petrossian had been elected head of government in 1990, when the Armenian National Movement[?] defeated the Communist Party. Ter-Petrossian was re-elected in 1996. Following public demonstrations against Ter-Petrossian's policies on Nagorno-Karabakh, the President resigned in January 1998 and was replaced by Prime Minister Robert Kocharian[?], who was elected President in March 1998. Following the assassination in Parliament of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian[?] and parliament Speaker Karen Demirchian[?] and six other officials, on October 27, 1999, a period of political instability ensued during which an opposition headed by elements of the former Armenian National Movement government attempted unsuccessfully to force Kocharian to resign. Kocharian was successful in riding out the unrest. The next presidential elections are slated for 2003.

The unicameral parliament (also called the National Assembly) is dominated by a coalition, called "Unity" (Miasnutyun), between the Republican and Peoples Parties and the Agro-Technical Peoples Union, aided by numerous independents. Dashnaksutyun, which was outlawed by Ter-Petrossian in 1995-96 but legalized again after Ter-Petrossian resigned, also usually supports the government. A new party, the Republic Party, is headed by ex-Prime Minister Aram Sargsian, brother of the late Vazgen Sargsian, and has become the primary voice of the opposition, which also includes the communists, the National Accord Party of Artashes Geghamian, and elements of the former Ter-Petrossian government.

The Government of Armenia's stated aim is to build a Western-style parliamentary democracy as the basis of its form of government. However, international observers have questioned the inherent fairness of parliamentary and presidential elections and constitutional referenda since 1995, citing polling deficiencies, lack of cooperation by the electoral commission, and poor maintenance of electoral lists and polling places. Observers noted, though, that opposition parties and candidates have been able to mount credible campaigns and proper polling procedures have been generally followed. Elections since 1998 have represented an improvement in terms of both fairness and efficiency, although they have not met international standards. The new constitution of 1995 greatly expanded the powers of the executive branch and gives it much more influence over the judiciary and municipal officials.

The observance of human rights in Armenia is uneven and is marked by shortcomings. Police brutality still goes largely unreported, while observers note that defendants are often beaten to extract confessions and are denied visits from relatives and lawyers. Public demonstrations usually take place without government interference, though one rally in November 2000 by an opposition party was followed by the arrest and imprisonment for a month of its organizer. Freedom of religion is not always protected under existing law. Nontraditional churches, especially the Jehovah's Witnesses, have been subjected to harassment, sometimes violently. All churches apart from the Armenian Apostolic Church must register with the government, and proselytizing is forbidden by law. The government's policy toward conscientious objection is in transition, as part of Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe. Most of Armenia's ethnic Azeri population was deported in 1988-89 and remain refugees, largely in Azerbaijan. Armenia's record on discrimination toward the few remaining national minorities is generally good. The government does not restrict internal or international travel. Although freedom of the press and speech are guaranteed, the government maintains its monopoly over television and radio broadcasting.

Government Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Armenia
conventional short form: Armenia
local long form: Hayastani Hanrapetut'yun
local short form: Hayastan
former: Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic; Armenian Republic

Data code: AM

Government type: republic

Capital: Yerevan

Administrative divisions: 10 provinces (marzer, singular - marz) and 1 city* (k'aghak'ner, singular - k'aghak'); Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Geghark'unik', Kotayk', Lorri, Shirak, Syunik', Tavush, Vayots' Dzor, Yerevan*

Independence: 28 May 1918-2 December 1920 (First Armenian Republic); 23 September 1991 (from Soviet Union)

National holiday: Referendum Day, 21 September

Constitution: adopted by nationwide referendum 5 July 1995

Legal system: based on civil law system

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Robert KOCHARIAN (since 30 March 1998)
head of government: Prime Minister Aram SARKISYAN (since 3 November 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; special election last held 30 March 1998 (next to be held NA March 2003); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Robert KOCHARIAN elected president; percent of vote - Robert KOCHARIAN 59%, Karen DEMIRCHYAN 41%

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Parliament) or Azgayin Zhoghov (131 seats; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 30 May 1999 (next to be held in the spring of 2003)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - unity bloc 61 (Republican Party 41, People's Party of Armenia 20), Stability Group (independent Armenian deputies who have formed a bloc) 21, ACP 10, independents 10, ARF (Dashnak) 8, Law and Unity Party 7, NDU 6, Law-Governed Party 6, unfilled 2; note - seats by party change frequently

Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Constitutional Court

Political parties and leaders: Armenian Communist Party or ACP [Vladimir DARBINIAN]; Armenian National Movement or ANM [Vano SIRADEGIAN, chairman]; Armenian Revolutionary Federation ("Dashnak" Party) or ARF [Vahan HAVHANNISIAN]; Christian Democratic Union or CDU [Azat ARSHAKYN, chairman]; Democratic Liberal Party [Ramkavar AZATAKAN, chairman]; Free Armenian's Mission [Ruben MNATSANIAN, chairman]; Law and Unity Party [Artashes GEGAMIAN, chairman]; Law-Governed Party [Artur BAGDASARIAN, chairman]; Mission Party [Artush PAPOIAN, chairman]; National Democratic Union or NDU [Vazgen MANUKIAN]; National State Party [Samvel SHAGINIAN]; People's Party of Armenia [Stepan DEMIRCHYAN]; Republican Party [Andranik MARKARYAN]; Shamiram Women's Movement or SWM [Maria NERSISSIAN]; Social Democratic (Hnchakian) Party [Yeghia NACHARIAN]; Stability Group [Vartan AYVAZIAN, chairman]; Union of National Self-Determination or NSDU [Paruir HAIRIKIAN, chairman]

International organization participation: BSEC, CCC, CE (guest), CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ESCAP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (applicant)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Arman KIRAKOSIAN
chancery: 2225 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 319-1976
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2982
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Michael LEMMON
embassy: 18 General Bagramian Avenue, Yerevan
mailing address: American Embassy Yerevan, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-7020
telephone: [374] (2) 151-551
FAX: [374] (2) 151-550

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, and orange

Reference Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.



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