It's election time in Armenia.
I haven't blogged much about Armenian politics because, frankly, I don't see much point. In Serbia, the first few years of post-Milosevic politics were wild and unpredictable. In Romania, EU accession and a flawed but competitive party system made things interesting. Here in Armenia... well, it's been the same guys running things for a while, and that'll continue to be the case.
This is an oversimplification, but not by much. The last Parliamentary election was won by the ruling party; it resulted in some modest chair-shuffling among political and business elites, nothing more. The upcoming Presidential election pits Establishment candidate Serzh Sargsyan -- current Prime Minister and close associate of current President Robert Kocharian -- against former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. Sargsyan is pretty clearly going to win. The only question is whether the government will allow the elections to proceed to a second round, or whether Sargsyan will "win" with 50% in the first.
-- Why is he going to win? Because President Kocharian and his allies control all the major TV and radio stations and about 80% of the print media; because most of Armenia's oligarchs are either allied to the President and his friends, or neutral; because they have plenty of money to spend, while Ter-Petrosian has little; and because, at the end of the day, they're perfectly willing to cheat if they have to. Also, Kocharian's administration hasn't done such a bad job -- Armenia has seen a lot of economic growth in the last few years -- and Ter-Petrosian carries some heavy negatives from his time as President.
So the campaign is not all that interesting. There'll be some intriguing bits after the election -- nobody thinks Kocharian is just going to go away; the current guess is that he and Sargsyan may just switch places; in any event there'll be some mildly interesting shuffling of portfolios -- but the campaign itself is (so far) looking like an exercise in foregone conclusions.
-- What brought this on? Well, the election is February 19, and official campaigning starts 30 days earlier... i.e., this past weekend. And there's a local storefront branch of Kocharian's Republican Party down the street from my office. So this morning, as I turned the corner, I was greeted by a huge poster of Sargsyan, silver-haired and jowly, gazing dolefully down at me. You can see the picture here. That page also includes the Republican Party's platform ("The national Armenian ideology is built on the basis of combination of Armenian value system and historical-cultural experience in conjunction with the national values and the ones common to all mankinds.") My favorite bit, though, is the Republican Party logo. This fascistic black-red-gold sword-and-eagle design is pretty ubiquitous here in Yerevan, but what I love is that the page has animated the background, producing a Mad Mod hypno-disc effect that's (inadvertently, I'm quite sure) kinda cute.
Anyway. This will go on for a month. If anything interesting happens, I'll try to post about it.