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Armenia - GOVERNMENT
The Republic of Armenia declared its sovereignty on August 23, 1990, and became an independent state a year later, on September 23, 1991. In October 1991, Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had been elected democratically as chairman of the Armenian Supreme Soviet under the Soviet system in 1990, was chosen president of the republic in a six-candidate election. As of early 1994, Armenia was a reasonably stable democratic state, although its party structure was fractious and its legislative branch ineffectual. Because no consensus could be reached on a new constitution, a standoff between parliament and the president remained unresolved in early 1994. Parliament
The 248 members of Armenia's unicameral parliament (Geraguin khorhurt in Armenian, officially retaining the term "Supreme Soviet" from the communist era) are elected for five-year terms and meet for six months each year. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers, which together constitute the executive branch of the government, are chosen from parliament. Although half the members of parliament (124) must be present for a quorum, a majority of the votes of the entire body (125) is needed to pass laws. In the early 1990s, because more than 160 members were rarely present and the ruling party did not have a majority in the body, the parliament was proving unable to act decisively on major legislative issues. Moreover, a two-thirds majority of the parliament (165) is needed to override a presidential veto. In the absence of a constitution, however, the parliament has issued laws regulating the relations and powers of the branches of government.
The Presidium, the parliament's executive body, administers parliament when it is not in session. The Presidium is made up of the president of the republic (whose title is also chairman of parliament), two deputies, the secretary of the parliament, and the twelve chairmen of permanent parliamentary committees. Often laws are initiated by the president of the republic, sent to the Presidium for review, and then passed on to appropriate committees before being reviewed and voted upon by the whole parliament. (Besides permanent committees, the parliament can create temporary committees to deal with specific issues.)
Once parliament passes a law, the president of the republic, who also may participate in parliamentary debates, must sign or veto within two weeks. In early 1994, parliament had not yet passed legislation replacing Soviet-era laws in several major areas: criminal and civil codes, administrative violations, marriage and family, labor rights and practices, land tenure, and housing.
As it has developed in the 1990s, the Armenian presidency is the most powerful position in government. More than a ceremonial head of state, the president is the most active proposer of new legislation, the chief architect of foreign and military policy, and, during Armenia's prolonged state of national emergency, the unchallenged center of government power in many areas.
Levon Ter-Petrosian, a former philologist and a founding member of the Karabakh Committee, became the first president of independent Armenia in 1991. Ter-Petrosian has occupied the political center of Armenian politics as the single most important politician in the country and the principal advocate of moderate policies in the face of nationalist emotionalism. The parliamentary plurality that Ter-Petrosian's party, the Armenian Pannational Movement (APM), enjoyed at the formation of the republic in 1991 enhanced presidential authority at the expense of parliament, where the majority of seats were divided among many parties. Beginning in 1992, Ter-Petrosian took several controversial unilateral actions on major issues, which brought accusations of abuse of power.
The Council of Ministers, which performs the everyday activities of the executive branch of government, is presided over by the prime minister, who reports directly to the president and to parliament. The prime minister is named by the president but must be approved by parliament. The members of the council are appointed by joint decision of the president and the prime minister.
The Council of Ministers underwent a series of changes in the early 1990s as Ter-Petrosian sought a prime minister with whom he could work effectively. As a result, four men occupied that position between 1991 and 1993. The principal source of friction within government circles is factional disagreement about the appropriate elements and pace of economic reform. In the first years of independence, most of the members of the council have belonged to the APM. In 1994 the Council of Ministers included the following ministries: agriculture, architecture and urban planning, communications, construction, culture, defense, economics, education, energy and fuel, environment, finance, food and state procurement, foreign affairs, health, higher education and science, industry, internal affairs, justice, labor and social security, light industry, national security, natural resources, trade, and transportation.
In addition to the regular ministries, state ministries coordinate the activities of ministries having overlapping jurisdictions. State ministers rank higher than regular ministers. In 1994 there were six state ministries: agriculture, construction, energy and fuel, humanitarian assistance, military affairs, and science and culture. State agencies have responsibilities similar to those of ministries, but they are appointed by and report directly to the president.
With no constitution in place, the structure of the new Armenian judiciary remains unformalized. Most judges are holdovers from the Soviet period, and the power to appoint judges has not been decided between the legislative and executive branches. Appointment and training of new judges is a high priority in replacing the Soviet judicial system with an independent judiciary.
District courts are the courts of first instance. Their judges are named by the president and confirmed by the parliament. The Supreme Court, whose chief justice is nominated by the president and elected by a simple majority of parliament, provides intermediate and final appellate review of cases. The court includes a three-member criminal chamber and a three-member civil chamber for intermediate review and an eleven-member presidium for final review. The full, thirty-two member court provides plenary appellate review.
The general prosecutor is nominated by the president and elected by parliament. The general prosecutor's office moves cases from lower to higher courts, oversees investigations, prosecutes federal cases, and has a broad mandate to monitor the activities of all state and legal entities and individual citizens. The general prosecutor appoints district attorneys, the chief legal officers at the district level.
As of early 1994, adoption of a constitution for the Republic of Armenia remained a controversial and unresolved project. In the meantime, the 1978 constitution, a replica of the Soviet Union's 1977 document, remained in effect except in cases where specific legislation superseded it. At the end of 1992, the president and the APM parliamentary delegates presented a draft constitution. They put forward a revised version in March 1993. Then, after nearly a year's work, a bloc of six opposition parties led by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) presented an alternative constitution in January 1994 that would expand the parliament's power, limit that of the president, expand the authority of local government, allow Armenians everywhere to participate in governing the republic, and seek international recognition of the 1915 massacre. As 1994 began, observers expected a long struggle before parliament adopted a final version.
The republic is divided into thirty-seven districts, or gavarner, each of which has a legislative and administrative branch replicating the national structures. Pending adoption of a new constitution prescribing a division of power, however, all major decisions are made by the central government and are merely implemented by the district administrations. Political Parties
During Armenia's seventy years as a Soviet republic, only one party, the Communist Party of Armenia (CPA), was allowed legal status. As a branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it ruled under the direct orders of the leadership in Moscow. Following the collapse of communist authority, two major parties and dozens of minor ones competed for popularity along with the remnants of the CPA.
In the years following independence, the most vocal and powerful opposition party was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). Founded in 1890, the ARF was the ruling party in the Republic of Armenia in 1918-20; forbidden under the communist regimes, the ARF built a strong support network in the Armenian diaspora. When the party again became legal in 1991, its foreign supporters enabled it to gain influence in Armenia out of proportion to its estimated membership of 40,000. With a platform calling for a coalition government, greater power for the parliament at the expense of the executive, and a strong social welfare program, the ARF gained eighteen seats in the 1992 parliamentary election.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), founded in 1921, calls for privatizing the economy and rapidly establishing all possible conditions for a free-market economy. It also backs a strong system of state social welfare and recognition of NagornoKarabakh 's independence. The LDP had seventeen seats in parliament in 1994.
Former dissident Pariur Hairikian heads the National Self-Determination Union, which has called for a coalition government based on proportional representation of each party. With only one seat in parliament, the union takes a radical-right position on most issues. Extreme nationalist parties with racist ideologies also have small followings. Most opposition parties have been critical of Ter-Petrosian's Nagorno-Karabakh policy; in 1992 they formed the so-called National Alliance to coordinate their foreign policy positions. Because of parliament's institutional weakness, oppositionists frequently have organized massive public rallies demanding the president's resignation.
In the first years of independence, the ruling elite came primarily from the Armenian Pannational Movement (APM), the umbrella organization that grew out of the Karabakh movement. In the 1992 parliamentary election, the APM gained fifty-five seats, easily giving it a plurality but leaving it vulnerable when opposition coalitions formed on individual issues. The next largest delegation, that of the ARF, had twelve seats. In 1993 the failure of Ter-Petrosian's government to bring the war to an end, its own willingness to compromise on the Karabakh question, and the daily grind of fuel and food shortages reduced the popularity of the ruling nationalist movement.
In April 1991, Armenia signed the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and accepted it as domestic law, superseding all existing laws on the subject. That covenant includes the right to counsel; the presumption of innocence of the accused; the right of privacy; prohibition of arbitrary arrest; freedom of the press, religion, political expression and assembly, and movement; minority rights; and prohibition of discrimination. Since 1991 specific legislation has further guaranteed freedom of the press and prohibited discrimination in education, language, and employment. Rights of the accused, however, remain undefined pending Armenia's acceptance of international conventions on that subject.
In 1993 several human rights organizations were active in Armenia: the Helsinki Assembly, which represented the international Helsinki Watch; the League of Human Rights; parliament's Committee on Human Rights; a national group called Avangard; and a branch of the international Sakharov Fund.
In 1993 the National Self-Determination Union accused the Ter-Petrosian government of a state terrorism policy that included the assassination of individuals within the union and others opposed to government policy. The most publicized incident was the murder in 1993 of Marius Yuzbashian, a former chief of the Armenian branch of the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti--KGB).
In the Soviet era, the officially sanctioned source of public information was Armenpress, the state news agency assigned to disseminate the propaganda of the CPA. In the post-Soviet years, Armenpress has remained the primary source of information for independent newspapers in Armenia and for periodicals in the diaspora. Under those conditions, the agency has required continued state funding to maintain its information flow to foreign customers, of whom seventeen had reciprocal information supply agreements with Armenpress in early 1994. Meanwhile, the agency has adopted a more neutral position in its reporting.
Early in 1994, the Ministry of Justice reported that twentyfour magazines, nine radio stations, twenty-five press agencies, and 232 newspapers were active. Several national newspapers represent a variety of political viewpoints. Hayastani Hanrapetutiun (Republic of Armenia) is the official daily newspaper of the Supreme Soviet, published in Armenian and Russian versions. Golos Armenii (The Voice of Armenia), published daily in Russian, is the official organ of the CPA. Azatamart (Struggle for Freedom) and Hazatamart (Battle for Freedom) are weekly organs of the ARF. Hazg (Nation) is published by the Party of Democratic Freedom. Other newspapers include Grakan Tert (Literary Paper), published by the Armenian Union of Writers; Hayk (Armenia), a publication of the APM; Ria Taze (New Way); and Yerokoian Yerevan (Evening Erevan). In 1993 thirteen major magazines and journals covered science and technology, politics, art, culture, and economics; the group also included one satirical journal, one journal for teenagers, and one for working women.
While it has been engaged in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan, Armenia also has sought international status and security in new bilateral relations and membership in international organizations. In the first years of independence, Armenia became a member of the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the CSCE, and the CIS. Located in a region that is already unstable, in the early 1990s the three republics of Transcaucasia gained the attention of world leaders because of the potential for a wider war on the northern tier of the Middle Eastern states. The resulting aid and efforts at mediation have had mixed results. Azerbaijan
Since the outbreak of fighting in 1988, Nagorno-Karabakh has been the principal foreign policy issue for Armenia, creating a huge drain on its financial and human resources. By the end of 1993, estimates of the number killed in the conflict ranged from 3,000 to 10,000. The war between Armenians and Azerbaijanis repeatedly has threatened to involve not only other CIS member states but also Turkey and Iran, whose borders have been approached and even crossed during the conflict.
In a speech to the UN in September 1992, Ter-Petrosian stated his government's official position that Armenia had no territorial claims against Azerbaijan, but that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh could not be denied the right of self-determination. Advocating the protection of the region by means of permanent international guarantees, Armenia repeatedly called for cease-fires and negotiations between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to resolve the issue. In 1992 the Armenian parliament passed a law prohibiting the government from signing any document recognizing Azerbaijani authority over Karabakh. But at that point, TerPetrosian resisted advocating Armenian recognition of Karabakh's independence, which would raise yet another obstacle to peace.
The ARF, the party most supportive of the Nagorno-Karabakh government and its army, called for more forceful prosecution of the war and recognition of the independent status of Karabakh. In early 1993, the ARF began advocating a binding referendum on the status of the region rather than its return to Armenia.
In 1993 the CSCE made repeated but fruitless efforts to maintain cease-fires and to bring the warring parties together for peace talks. Although years of preliminary discussions had finally resolved the details of how a conference would be held, the negotiations of the CSCE's multinational Minsk Group had not resulted in a single meeting by the end of 1993. There were other efforts at peacemaking. A joint meeting of thirty-three states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the former Warsaw Pact expressed its concern, Iran attempted separate mediation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and Russian and CIS leaders (most notably Russia's President Boris N. Yeltsin) also negotiated brief cease-fires. In 1993 Ter-Petrosian also maintained telephone contact with Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev.
The situation was complicated by the often unpredictable actions of the government in Nagorno-Karabakh. In December 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself an independent state, and its armed forces often operated independently of the government of the Republic of Armenia. However, the region and its army remained largely dependent on food, medicine, weapons, and moral support from Armenia, especially from the ARF.
Armenians have long been a significant part of the urban population of Georgia, particularly in Tbilisi. Two districts in southern Georgia are predominantly Armenian. The dictatorial regime of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, which ruled Georgia from late 1990 until early January 1992, was extremely intolerant of all ethnic minorities. More than 70,000 Armenians were caught in the crossfire of the Georgian government's conflict with Abkhazian separatists, which reached crisis proportions in the fall of 1993. In this struggle, extreme Georgian nationalists attempted to drive the Armenian population from the country in order to create a homogeneous Georgia. The crisis in Abkhazia had immediate repercussions for Armenia when fighting resulted in the severing of Georgia's Black Sea railroad, a lifeline from Russia to Armenia. The republic thus was cut off from many supplies, particularly grain. In early 1993, when a natural gas pipeline running through Georgia was repeatedly blown up, the Armenian government sharply demanded that the Georgian leader, Eduard Shevardnadze, make a greater effort to secure the necessary flow of gas to Armenia.
Armenia has had better relations with Iran, although Iran has been worried about the presence of Armenian troops occupying Azerbaijani territory just across its border. Two-thirds of the world's Azerbaijanis live in Iran, and the Tehran government fears that émigrés would spread Azerbaijani nationalism among the Azerbaijani population of northern Iran. Armenian troops have at times been no more than twenty kilometers from the Iranian border. On several occasions, Iran attempted to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but unforeseen actions by the Karabakh forces frustrated these efforts.
Armenia's traditional enemy in the twentieth century has been Turkey. Among outstanding sources of conflict, the most painful and long-lasting has been the Turkish refusal to recognize the deportations and massacres of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as a deliberate, state-sponsored act of genocide. Many Armenians, particularly those associated with the ARF, aspire to restore Armenian control over the lands of historical Armenia that are now under Turkish sovereignty. Although many Armenian émigrés remain hostile toward Turkey today, the Ter-Petrosian government has made improved relations with Ankara a high priority because of the possibility of opening new supply routes and hard-currency markets for Armenian products.
Although no Armenian politician is willing to retract the demand that the Ottoman genocide of 1915 be acknowledged, those around the Armenian president have resisted raising issues likely to alienate Turkey. In late 1992, when Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian spoke about the outstanding differences between Turks and Armenians in a speech in Istanbul, he was swiftly removed from office. On the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the Turkish government usually has sided with Azerbaijan, particularly during the time of the Azerbaijani Popular Front government in Baku (May 1992-June 1993). Nationalist voices in Turkey have protested Armenian advances against Azerbaijan, and periodically Turkey has prevented Western humanitarian aid from reaching Armenia. Turkish nationalist factions also have accused Armenia of aiding Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkey.
Increasingly through the early 1990s, the Republic of Armenia's isolation led the government to look for allies beyond Transcaucasia. Ter-Petrosian appealed to foreign governments and to Armenians abroad for material aid to carry the people through the harsh winters. As the rapprochement with Turkey in 1991-92 brought few concrete benefits, Armenia steadily gravitated toward a closer relationship with Russia. Early in 1993, Ter-Petrosian met with Yeltsin in Moscow to discuss deliveries of oil and natural gas to the blockaded republic. The Russian minister of defense, Pavel Grachev, negotiated a brief cease-fire in NagornoKarabakh in April. Armenia remained in the ruble zone, the group of countries still using Russian rubles as domestic currency, often in parallel with a new national currency such as Armenia's dram. In 1992 and 1993, large-scale credit payments from the Central Bank of Russia were vital in supporting Armenia's national budget.
Immediately after Armenia declared itself independent, TerPetrosian joined in an economic community with seven other republics--but he refused to enter a political union at that point. In December 1991, however, he signed the Alma-Ata Declaration, making Armenia a founding member of the CIS. From that time, Armenia has played an active role in the CIS, signing an accord on military cooperation with Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
In May 1993, Ter-Petrosian announced Armenia's support of a Russo-Turkish-American plan for settlement of the Karabakh conflict. When Aliyev returned to power in June, Ter-Petrosian spoke by telephone directly with the new leader of Azerbaijan, and together they agreed that Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh must begin direct negotiations. Azerbaijan's entry into the CIS in September 1993 was seen by some as giving Russia a mandate to solve the Karabakh problem. Ter-Petrosian reiterated his conditions for peace: Karabakh was to be recognized as a full party to the negotiations, all blockades were to be ended, and the CSCE-sponsored Minsk Group negotiations were to settle all political and legal questions on the status of Karabakh.
Russia was a logical mediator. Not only did it have military bases and equipment in the region, but Russian troops were still guarding the border between Armenia and Turkey. Russia consistently asserted its hegemonic role in Transcaucasia, opposed the designs of Turkey and Iran in the region, and was even wary of the United States being a mediator in the region without specific Russian invitation or acquiescence. After Yeltsin won a struggle with the Russian parliament in September 1993 and both Georgia and Azerbaijan had joined the CIS, Russia resumed its role as the primary mediator of conflicts in Transcaucasia.
Russia has asserted hegemony in the region in several ways. It has repeatedly claimed the right to protect the major link from Russia to Armenia that passes through the conflict-plagued Abkhazia and Georgia. In September 1993, Russia requested a revision of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which had been negotiated between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1990, in order to achieve an increase in the number of Russian tanks and heavy weapons in the Caucasus. Although NATO perceived an increased military influence in the formulation of this more assertive Russian policy, Western policy makers recognized that at the end of 1993 Russia was the only power in position to play a meaningful peacekeeping role in the region.
Independent Armenia enjoys good relations with the <"http://worldfacts.us/US.htm"> United Statesand the European Union (EU). The United States recognized the Republic of Armenia in December 1991, and a United States embassy opened in Erevan in February 1992. General United States and Armenian strategic interests in common include the promotion of internal democracy, just termination of the Karabakh conflict, and stability in the former Soviet Union that would prevent the resurgence of an authoritarian, imperialist Russia. United States policy toward Armenia must weigh the special relationships of the United States with Russia and NATO ally Turkey. In the first post-Soviet years, the United States has given more aid per capita to Armenia than to any other former Soviet republic. At the same time, the United States has withheld trade privileges from Azerbaijan because of that country's economic blockade of Armenia.
Armenians have been able to influence American policy to a limited degree through the diaspora in the United States, but their interests and those of the United States are not always congruent. Given its special relationship with Turkey, the United States has been reluctant to recognize the events of 1915 as genocide. On several occasions, the United States criticized Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan outside of Karabakh. Yet both the United States and Russia, as well as the CSCE countries in general, agree that a solution to the Karabakh conflict must be based on recognition of existing borders and the rights of minorities.
In the first winters of the 1990s, many Armenians were on the brink of starvation, and the basic needs of the population were sustained only through foreign aid. In December 1991, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America arranged for the diocese to distribute food shipments valued at US$15 million in Armenia. Through Operation Provide Hope, the United States government sent food and medical supplies worth over US$6 million to Armenia in the first eight months of 1992. When the United States Agency for International Development (AID) authorized US$1 million to the American Bar Association for a program to provide legal experts to the member states of the CIS, Armenia became the first country where legislators worked with these legal specialists. The Peace Corps arrived in Erevan in August 1992, followed in the fall by AID and the United States Information Agency (USIA).
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