2021 March 19

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

Mar/19/2021 news: __ What's in the electoral code reform? Proportional vs Rating. Ideology vs Oligarch. Will it be ready before snap elections? __ Judicial reform: Supreme __ Plastic ban __ Forbes 500 __ Sports victories __ Turkish patient __ Court verdicts: Serj, Minister __ Bank stats __ Tourism+
by ar_david_hh


Your 13-minute Friday report in 3355 words.

today in history

1474: first patent law is written in Venice

1953: first Oscar ceremony is broadcasted on TV

1958: first European Parliament session is held

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046498.html

top-5 bestseller translated books in February

5) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

4) A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini

3) Zuleikha, by Guzel Yakhina

2) Christmas Angel, by Mark Aren

1) Zulali, by Narine Abgaryan

world: there are 5 trillion books

Armenians: we are reading Khaled Hosseini this month

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046334.html

Armenian chess players win a tournament

Hayk Martirosyan and Anna Sargsyan became the winners of the first online world blitz chess championships among students. The Rapid chess tournament will begin on March 20th.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046504.html

Armenian wrestler defeats Azeri opponent in finale

Freestyle wrestling in Bulgaria. 65kg Vazgen Tevanyan defeated the Azeri opponent Haji Aliyev 9:0 in the finale.

57kg Arsen Harutyunyan also defeated his opponent and won a ticket to Tokyo Olympics. Two other wrestlers won one earlier.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046595.html

COVID stats

4725 tested. 891 infected. 332 healed. 19 deaths. 10367 active

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046524.html 37 US Senators urge President Biden to recognize the Armenian Genocide

https://factor.am/350333.html

Luxemburg MFA criticizes "aggressive rhetoric" in Artsakh conflict

MFA Jean Asselborn: Aggressive rhetoric between the two countries, which is especially inflamed by the President of Azerbaijan, complicates constructive cooperation. The preservation of the cultural heritage remains one of the contentious issues for the parties.

More: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046569.html

Azerbaijan transfers 15 bodies

The battlefield search operations continue. Armenian and Azeri crews are looking for alive or deceased soldiers. Azeris have found and handed over 15 bodies that were in southern areas controlled by them.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046587.html

Turkish citizen receives medical help in Artsakh hospital

Stepanakert hospital ICU room treated a resident of Istanbul yesterday. They received an alarm from the Russian peacekeeper medics that Mehmed Essen Hasani is suffering from heart arrhythmia and myocardial infarction.

He was rushed to Stepanakert hospital, where the doctors brought him out of the cardiogenic shock. He was discharged today and returned to the Russian base.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046586.html

Kurdish residents hold a protest in front of UN embassy

A group of Kurdish-Armenians marched in Yerevan and protested in front of the UN embassy over reports that Abdullah Öcalan, a prominent Kurdish figure imprisoned in Turkey, is in bad health.

They want Abdullah freed "after 22 years of being subject to pressure in a Turkish prison." They condemned "Turkey's fascist acts against ethnic Kurds."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046566.html

conscripts who served during the war could receive benefits

Some conscripts were recruited shortly before the war, so they continue to serve in the army despite fighting the war. Today, a group of parents met Pashinyan to discuss possible benefits for them.

Within 2 weeks, the government will decide whether to shorten their mandatory service duration and to provide other aid packages.

https://youtu.be/4JquYAKsD2s

Serj Tankian's Electric Yerevan music clip

... is about political events in Armenia. The March 1st 2008 shootings, the 2013 presidential elections, the 2015 Electric Yerevan protests against electricity price hike, the 2018 revolution, and other global events.

https://youtu.be/BGilNMeIR70

update: Serj's assets will remain frozen

Former president Serj had $1M of his assets frozen as part of the alleged agricultural fuel aid theft charges. Today the court denied his petition to unfreeze them.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046580.html

court sides with opposition activist over defamation case

Former regime activist Narek Malyan will not have to apologize to Justice Minister over statements that the Minister deemed defamatory. The latter will pay ֏200K to cover Malyan's lawyer fees. The Minister plans to challenge the verdict in Appeals Court, saying "there were legal violations during the trial."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046571.html

update: late general Manvel Grigoryan's wife is charged with large-scale embezzlement

Investigators finalized the investigation and said: in 2001, the government sold 80% of HayApaki glass factory to Manvel's wife Nazik Amiryan for ֏145M. In return, she was obligated to invest ֏250M and create 700 jobs within 3 years.

Amiryan intentionally failed to make the investments and drove the company to bankruptcy and racked up debt. The Justice Ministry confiscated part of the company property to place it for auction.

Amiryan asked her friend to take part in the auction. The latter won the auction in 2003 and paid only ֏8.3M for the 9300m2 industrial workshop, which was significantly less than its market value. It was later valued at ֏222M.

[lists more instances of collusion with a friend to defraud the state]

Amiryan is charged with 3 felony counts of fraud, deliberate bankruptcy, causing harm to a property through abuse of trust.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046550.html

update: confrontation between High Tech Minister and a reporter at a cafe

Yesterday a reporter spotted Minister Arshakyan at a cafe and began asking why he was dining at that time. More here. The latter felt agitated and became physical with the reporter. "There is no justification for attacking a journalist," responded the HR Ombudsman and union of reporters.

Today Arshakyan apologized for his conduct, saying he supports resolving issues in a civil manner. "I'm ready to take responsibility for the incident."

The SIS is investigating the incident.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046515.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046516.html , https://factor.am/350193.html

stats: banking sector in 2020

The number of customers +7.5% or +324k, reaching 3.2m.

The number of bank accounts +5.6% or +333k, reaching 6.2m.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046520.html

unknown vandals have burned 110 garbage bins in Yerevan

... in the past two months. Each one costs ֏90k. There were 400 such incidents last year. The city has contacted the police.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/209315

Corruption Prevention database gets corrupt

A corrupt database belonging to Corruption Prevention Committee resulted in the corrupt script sending incorrect login details to numerous users. "Sorry. We'll resend you the data."

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/209319

three MPs will "represent" Artsakh in Armenian Parliament

Three Ind. MPs (former QP) launched a temporary "Artsakh" initiative to raise various issues faced by Artsakh in the Armenian Parliament. "We have similar friendship groups with different countries."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046528.html , https://youtu.be/pSrCuhCjd9w

gone, but still here

Hadrut, Shushi, and Shahumyan administrative offices had to be moved to Yerevan after the occupation. Their displaced residents, however, continue to handle registration paperwork in relevant agencies.

So far this year there have been 29 marriages, 10 births, 10 deaths, and hundreds of other paperwork transactions.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046538.html

MITT tourism exhibition is held in Moscow

20 Armenian tourism agencies took part in the largest tourism exhibition in post-Soviet territories. 229 countries sent 1.5k companies.

The Armenian booth was attended by Russian tourism agency RosTourism chief Dugozova, who discussed possible cooperation with her Armenian counterpart Alfred.

During the three days, the Armenian companies presented adventure tour packages, wine tourism, festivals in Yerevan and provinces, etc.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046533.html

Armenia begins accepting Iranian tourists

Iran is celebrating the Novruz holiday. Many Iranians prefer to spend their time in Armenia, usually in Yerevan and sometimes Garni/Geghard. Tsakhkadzor is popular among skiers in the snowy season.

The first groups began arriving but it's still the fraction of pre-pandemic numbers. Yerevan municipality plans to distribute maps in Farsi and English to help them navigate through the city. Several Armenian tourism agencies went to Iran to launch a marketing campaign.

Photos: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046510.html

Armenia and Iran are discussing transport routes for trade / India's North-South / Persian-Black seas

Deputy MFA of Iran and Iranian ambassador met the Armenian Infrastructure Ministry to discuss the connection of Black and Persian Seas through Armenia and Iran, as well as the Indian proposal to connect Armenia to Iran for India's new North-South trade route.

The Armenian side also asked Iran to digitize some document-related processes to help Armenian cargo truck drivers.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046572.html

nature protection: plastic ban & ozone programs

Nature Ministry: a bill was approved to gradually reduce the use of plastic shopping bags. Starting next year, the sale of plastic bags thinner than 50 microns will be prohibited.

We also prohibited the production of ozone-depleting substances last year.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/209253

officials charged over nature abuses

Prosecutors said: an auditor agency recorded the existence of 1,100 baby thuja trees at Reserve Complex POAK in early 2020, with each costing ֏2.5K. The director counted only 359 plants by the end of the year. [you're a wizard, Harry]. The director is being charged with negligence and failure to protect the plants.

In another instance, a miner is charged with damaging arable lands and extracting large volumes of tuf stones, after being authorized to extract only a tiny amount as an experiment.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046561.html

digitizing the agriculture

The Investment Support Center, aka Enterprise Armenia, is working on an EU-funded initiative that supports the digitization of agriculture in 5 countries surrounding the Black Sea.

An online platform will be created, the first of its kind in Armenia, for cooperation between other countries. The users will exchange trade contacts, experience, etc. The platform will present research findings, stats, and other guides in the agricultural field.

More: https://factor.am/349909.html

Forbes-500: America's best startup employers

Three Armenian companies made it to the list of startups that provide conveniences to workers during the pandemic.

PicsArt - 93rd

They began working remotely. "Since we are an international tech company and were already holding the conferences remotely, the workers already had the option to work from home several days a month."

They have 150M monthly active users. Before the pandemic, PicsArt was the 2nd most downloaded app, ahead of YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. After the pandemic, Zoom and other communication apps began dominating.

ServiceTitan - 116th

Founded by Ara Mahdesyan and Vahe Kuzoyan, it provides home and commercial services management, to help businesses improve their customer service, etc. It has offices in Glendale, California, Armenia and Yerevan, Armenia.

SoloLearn - 400th

It teaches software programming to over 20M users, mostly the youth. Has short and interactive classes. 2020 was such a good year for them that their workforce doubled.

https://www.forbes.com/americas-best-startup-employers/ , https://factor.am/349764.html

judicial reforms / citizens can ask Supreme Court to investigate a judge / Punish trial participants who abuse their rights / Supreme expands powers

My Step (QP) MPs proposed a bill.

It allows the citizens, who are participants of a court trial, to contact the Supreme Court with a complaint against their judge. Right now, only the Justice Ministry and Judicial Ethics Board have this authority.

It would also introduce a new type of sanction against trial participants. If you repeatedly abuse your rights during the trial and it affects the other party's rights, then the judge can take away your rights.

For example, you know 3 things that could disqualify the judge from presiding over your trial, so you ask the judge to recuse themselves, but you only list 1 of the recusal reasons. The trial is delayed until the judge makes a verdict. The judge decides they won't refuse themselves. You then present the second reason for recusal, then the third, and so on. You could have presented all your reasons at once, but instead, you are intentionally delaying the trial by making the judge run around. [I wonder if this could apply to Kocharyan's March 1st trial after years of complaints that the defense is delaying the trial]

However, if the trial participant has a valid reason to submit a new recusal after learning new information, and the judge incorrectly rules it as an abuse of power, then the trial participant will have the right to file a complaint against the judge in the Supreme Court, under the new rules. This way, the bill co-author believes the trial participants won't be stripped from their rights.

The bill also gives the Supreme Court "the authority to ensure the normal functioning of the courts by adopting normative legal acts."

In the event a specific felony trial is exceptionally complicated, the Supreme Court would appoint a judge who has experience in similar trials. The opposition LHK party is against this clause because they believe it gives too much power to the Supreme Court over what other courts can do. "It makes the judicial system worse. If they don't like the judge, the bill will allow them [Supreme Court] to re-assign a trial to another judge. There will be problems in Council of Europe," said LHK Marukyan.

The bill's co-author dismissed LHK's claims that the government could intervene in judicial affairs, saying that decisions would be made by the Supreme board, which is consisted of 10 people including 5 judges and 5 scholars.

Opposition Ind. MP Babajanyan supports the reforms despite seeing some flaws. "I see elements of vetting in the reforms. The resolution is, in general, a step forward."

Parliament voted 80-6-1 to adopt the draft bill. A second vote is needed.

The MPs held further discussions. A QP MP said most of the concerns were addressed by the changes.

Parliament voted again 81-15 to approve the finalized bill.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046534.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046540.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046536.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046542.html , https://factor.am/349939.html , https://factor.am/349957.html , https://youtu.be/4SyLZYMX8jQ , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046601.html

Tags: #SupremeCourt #SupremeReform #JudicialReform

electoral code reforms / snap elections / purging unqualified voters who left Armenia / proportional replaces rating / ideology vs money / alliances & coalitions

The government, opposition, and various civil society groups have been working on electoral law reforms. It brings major changes to how the ballots are formed, how the voting takes place, etc.

Some non-parliamentary opposition parties also support the repeal of the Rating voting system (details below) before holding the June 20 elections. They want the reforms to pass before holding the elections.

QP MP Alen: I support the repeal of the Rating system, but I won't mind running for re-election under the Rating system if we fail to adopt the reforms before the elections. We may not have enough time to adopt the bill by June 20th.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046541.html

BHK MP Melkumyan said they are ready for elections regardless of whether it's under Rating or Proportional system. BHK has backtracked its initial stance that Pashinyan must be replaced by an opposition Premier before the elections.

The BHK MP said the fact that Pashinyan will resign soon to trigger snap elections is a success. "All parties must unite and hold fair elections. No hitting below the waist during the campaign, I'm talking about the media and stuff..."

https://factor.am/350006.html

LHK leader Marukyan does not support the full repeal of the Rating system. He wants a "hybrid" system. He fears that the new Proportional system would leave provinces under-represented. "Parliament will become a Yerevan party," he fears.

Marukyan says it's unlikely to come to a consensus around these reforms before the snap elections. "If we attempt to pass the new bill, it'll take up to a month. It'll change the rules while the game [election campaign] had already begun. All parties must be ready to participate under the existing [Rating] rules. You can hold great elections with bad rules, and you can hold bad elections with great rules."

Marukyan believes Vazgen Manukyan Camp will eventually agree to participate in the snap elections, even if they are currently against it being held under Pashinyan's administration.

Vazgen Manukyan yesterday opposed the June 20th snap elections. He believes Pashinyan should resign and the opposition should become the government for a year, before holding elections.

ARF Ishkyan Saghatelyan shares Vazgen Manukyan's views and wouldn't trust the election results held under Pashinyan, saying, "The announcement that elections will take place in June does not inspire faith in us. They talked about snap elections several times in the past but quickly refused. Even if the elections are held, that will only satisfy part of our demands."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046552.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046554.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046554.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046558.html , https://youtu.be/yQyMQmIcPPA

--

One of the co-authors of the electoral code reform bill presents details about the electoral code changes. (this was written a month ago)

Question: When will it be ready?

QP MP Hamazasp: It's ready. Next week the draft bill will be published and sent to the Venice Commission for advice.

Question: when will Parliament vote on it?

MP: we want public discussions for at least 2 weeks, followed by Parliamentary hearings, other meetings. By mid-April, it should have the first vote.

Question: list some of the changes it brings.

MP: the voter list will be formed in a way not to include people who have long migrated out of Armenia and are not qualified to vote. [Context: current government and civil groups have long complained that the former government was rigging elections by adding fraudulent votes on behalf of people who had left Armenia.]

Campaign finance laws are reformed to prevent abuse.

The % barrier to enter Parliament will be lowered from 5% to 4% for parties and increased from 7% to 8% for alliances.

Certain changes have been made in connection with the distribution of mandates in the Parliament. We try to neutralize the effect of bonuses as much as possible.

Some restrictions around forming coalitions will be reviewed. Parties that do not hold a majority will have more time to form a coalition.

A Proportional (hamamasnakan) system will be used during elections with a fixed list of candidates. Parties will nominate candidates and publish their names.

Question: why is there a need to transition from Rating to Proportional?

The Rating system has several major flaws, despite having its advantages. The public is generally against the Rating system because it turns elections into a battle between who has the largest financial resources, and often it becomes a struggle between two candidates from the same party. Instead of that, we want the party's record and agenda to be at the forefront.

Another flaw in the Rating system is that it's too complicated for the voter. Even experts have difficulty fully understanding how the votes turn into Parliament seats, and what the proportions will be.

The Rating system says that voters must use a pen in ballot rooms. This opens up room for abuse. In comparison, under the Proportional system, the voter picks a ballot representing a specific candidate, and there is no need to mark anything anymore.

Question: critics say that even under the Proportional system, it will be a battle between "leaders" rather than parties?

MP: in any Parliamentary country the elections are more or less about their leaders because they are the primary choice for Premier. That's how it's done in Germany, Italy, where the candidate at the top of the list plays a big role in the outcome.

Question: the Rating system [soon to be repealed] was introduced by the former government. How did they justify its need?

MP: the formal justification was that it allows the election of candidates from provinces to ensure representation. However, the issue of representation can be resolved with the Proportional system, too.

But the real reason why they introduced the Rating system is that, when the first-ever elections were held under Rating in 2017, it was a battle between oligarchic candidates, often within the same party.

Question: why lower the entry barrier from 5% to 4%, but increase it from 7% to 8% for alliances?

MP: back in 2018 there was a bill to lower the entry barrier [HHK, which still ruled the Parliament at the time, rejected the bill]. It will improve inclusiveness and representation in the Parliament to accepting more parties.

As for alliances, in the case of Armenia, it is obvious that our alliances are very unstable and often collapse. Partly because they usually form at the last moment, without ideological backing, [just to solve math shortcomings].

Question: what are the changes regarding forming a government coalition?

MP: Currently, the law says that a coalition can be formed by up to 3 parties that entered the Parliament. This is a baseless restriction. If even 5 parties decide to form a coalition, they should be allowed to.

Second. We're relaxing the deadline requirements. Parties will have 3 weeks instead of 1 to form coalitions. This will also reduce the need to have second elections.

Question: can these reforms pass before the upcoming snap elections?

MP: if everything goes smoothly, and the Venice Commission responds in time, we should be able to pass the bill by the end of April.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206731 , https://youtu.be/N5_MFhZQKyE

Tags: #RatingSystem #ProportionalSystem #hamamasnakan #reytingayin #ElectoralCode #VoterList

end of report

The accused are innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "appear" guilty.

News archive: http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/m8pjmp/mar192021_news_whats_in_the_electoral_code_reform/

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