Country Report Armenia November 1998 Main report

Outlook for 1999-2000: Pres. will cont to face criticism over pols--

Six months into his presidency, Robert Kocharian is facing increasing criticism over his government's privatisation policy, which has led to demands by the opposition for a change in government. Nevertheless, he is likely to remain in office. The opposition parties are not united, while protestations by parliamentarians against the government's privatisation policy are weakened by the fact that there has been some progress in the economy through privatisation. They are further weakened by widespread scepticism that their criticism of the government's privatisation policy may be motivated by the forthcoming parliamentary election. So far the government has been able to rely on the support of Yerkrapah, currently the largest group in parliament, to force through its legislative programme, but continued pressure will be applied to the president at least until the parliamentary election in July 1999.

--but his support base is likely to split

There is disagreement between Yerkrapah and Dashnaksutiun (the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaks), the two main parties within the Justice and Unity alliance (formed to support Mr Kocharian's presidential candidature) over a number of fundamental policy issues. This continues to cast doubt on further co-operation among the political forces on which Mr Kocharian relies for support. Yerkrapah firmly rejects the proposed dual citizenship law, whereas the Dashnaks enthusiastically support it. Yerkrapah is still pitted against all the other parliamentary parties over the proposed election law. Four different draft election laws have so far been rejected by the National Assembly because Yerkrapah is blocking every draft which proposes anything other than a 70% share of single-mandate seats (30% by proportional representation) in the 131-member National Assembly. All other parties are in favour of a greater share of proportional seats, which they believe would leave less room for electoral fraud. It is likely that Mr Kocharian will side with Yerkrapah against the Dashnaks on the new election law. The Dashnaks were only recently legalised and have just one deputy in parliament, compared with Yerkrapah's 72. Mr Kocharian is unlikely to want to offend the majority in a parliament whose smaller factions are increasingly opposed to his policies.

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