Thursday, 17 January 2019

W Weekly Update

December 15-22

Armenia is The Economist’s country of the year

The Economist named Armenia as the country of the year for the progress and improvements it had in 2018. Nikol Pashinyan, a former journalist and opposition lawmaker, "was swept into power, legally and properly, on a wave of revulsion against corruption and incompetence," the London-based weekly news magazine said in its article.

"A Putinesque potentate was ejected, and no one was killed. Russia was given no excuse to interfere," The Economist said, adding that "an ancient and often misruled nation in a turbulent region has a chance of democracy and renewal."

However, the weekly noted that Armenia’s "nasty territorial dispute" with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh "has not been resolved and could ignite again."

According to The Washington Post Armenia is one of the countries where “democracy staged a comeback.” “Almost any measure, 2018 has been a disastrous year for democracy” yet “there are parts of the world where, quite unexpectedly, the struggle for democratic reform made giant strides — a reminder that the right mix of activism, leadership and circumstances can suddenly change the course of history… Remarkably, whether toppling autocrats or reversing corrosive practices, the bold leaders and committed activists that shocked the system managed to achieve their goals without violence,”-writes the author.

The article describes how Nikol Pashinyan leveraged the people’s anger to drastically change the country’s direction, writing that “the nonviolent people power of Armenians forced Sargsyan to resign and persuaded legislators to name Pashinyan prime minister,” and adding that the biggest shift was still to come as on December 9 “Armenians elected a new parliament, handing Pashinyan’s bloc an astonishing 70 percent of the vote. Bolstered by the vote of confidence, Pashinyan has now launched a comprehensive anti-corruption campaign aimed at cleaning up the system of government.”

“These countries and their leaders still face dangerous obstacles ahead along the path to a durable liberal democracy. Their experiments could still fail. But the very fact that they have managed to make meaningful democratic strides against such steep odds should give encouragement to those battling the forces of damaging corruption and creeping authoritarianism in other places,”- concludes the author.

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, writes that the Caucasus in no longer just Russia’s neighborhood and “the legacy of the Soviet Union is gradually leaving the region, along with the influence of Russia.”

“Russia itself is still the most powerful neighbor for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, but increasingly it is one of many. Journalists should stop calling these countries “Russia’s neighborhood,” let alone its “backyard.” The South Caucasus is a region of its own. If it is a neighborhood, it is simultaneously many at once: not just Russia’s, but that of the European Union’s and (once again) Iran’s and Turkey’s. The United States is there—an international consortium, including two U.S. companies, has begun building a deep-water port at Anaklia on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. And China, which sees the region as a transit route for the Belt and Road Initiative, is now a major trading partner,”- writes de Waal.

Writing about Armenia, de Waal notes: “A close military and politically ally of Russia, financially reliant on Moscow for its energy and infrastructure, it nonetheless managed to cast off its old regime in 2018. Many Western observers were surprised that Russia did not intervene in the “Velvet Revolution” to save a friendly regime, but it actually had very few levers to do so. On December 9 the leader of the revolution, Nikol Pashinyan, completed the last stage of his spectacular victory with a landslide win in the country’s parliamentary election. The election signaled, amongst other things, a rejection of close alignment with Russia,” and clarifying that “Pashinyan is not exactly anti-Russian—or, rather, is so only by implication as he talks about European values and democracy. The point is that, aged 43, he is without the Soviet background of his predecessors… He is of a generation that is not so much Soviet, anti-Soviet, or post-Soviet, but simply un-Soviet.”

“Each of the three South Caucasian countries has found a way to manage its relationship with Russia. If their leaders themselves do nothing stupid to alienate their own populations and do not go to war with each other (take note, Armenia and Azerbaijan), they stand a good chance of navigating 2019 without a confrontation with Russia,”-resumes de Waal.

 

Prepared by Marina Muradyan

29 December 2018
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