Armenia’s Democracy Strong; Parliamentary Elections Praised by International Observers

WASHINGTON, D.C – In a proud moment for the Republic of Armenia, the will of its citizens for a more democratic and transparent government has prevailed in open parliamentary elections, consolidating the previous gains registered during the peaceful protests for change in April of this year.

The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) congratulates Nikol Pashinyan and the citizens of Armenia, and is invigorated by the future in store for the nation. “Armenians living in Armenia and around the world should take great pride in the country’s successful elections. Since Armenia’s Velvet Revolution began last April, my heart has been full watching Armenians from all walks of life engage politically, make demands of their government, and spar progress towards a truly representative democracy. I look forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Pashinyan, other Members of Congress, and the Armenian people as we strengthen Armenia’s democracy and our nations’ ties,” Congresswoman Jackie Spier told the Armenian Assembly. “There was a remarkable change in Armenia and at the ballot box yesterday. The way Armenia conducts itself going forward has changed, and we have the Armenian citizens and their political will for a fully free, just, and equal nation to thank. Yesterday’s elections marked an important step forward towards establishing a stronger and more robust democratic framework for Armenia, which stands in sharp contrast to the bordering hostile nations of Azerbaijan and Turkey whose governments’ corruption and unjust imprisonment of journalists worsen by the day. Armenia represents hope, and the Armenian Assembly of America represents hope, and the Armenian Assembly will do everything in its capacity to foster this courageous optimism and work with the United States Government to strengthen not only the hope but the prosperity of Armenia,” stated Armenian Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.

US Embassy in Armenia Congratulates the People

With initial results released, the United States Embassy to Armenia stated: “Congratulations to the Armenian people on a successful election yesterday! The winners in yesterday’s elections were clearly the people of Armenia, who brought good spirit and energy to this election,” said Peter Osusky, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term Organization for Secuirty and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission. “Democracy cannot proceed without trust, so I am pleased that broad public trust was the central characteristic of this election. Now that voters have delivered their message, it is up to the political leadership in Armenia to ensure that this momentum is maintained, and further reforms are implemented to fully consolidate the positive assessment we are making to day.”

During the press conference, Osusky added that the observers praised the “open atmosphere” during the political campaigns that enabled real substantive debate. “Members of our own team noted with regard to the leaders’ debate held last week that they would like to see similar debates in their own countries,” Osusky said.
“Our assessment of these elections highlights that fundamental freedoms were respected, along with may other positives,” said Ambassador Urszula Gacek, Head of the Election Observation Mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Published in the initial report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament (EP), observers affirmed that “election day proceeded calmly and free of pressure on or intimidation of voters, and voting, counting, and tabulation were assessed positively by almost all observers.”

“These elections were very well organized, with minimum irregularities and free of pressure on voters. I am very happy that, as a result, public trust in the electoral process was high,” said Heidi Hautala, Head of the delegation from the European Parliament. “We congratulate the Armenian authorities and participants in these elections and encourage the government and the National Assembly to further improve the legislation ahead of future elections.”

Having won a majority of the seats in parliament, Pashinyan has a strong mandate to continue the path of political and economic reforms ushered in by Armenia’s own Velvet Revolution.

Posted in News

LA Board of Supervisors Donate $1 Million to the Armenian-American Museum

On December 9th, 2018, the Armenian American Museum held its full house gala banquet. Some 1,000 people, including many elected officials, some of whom were honored, at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre Banquet Hall.

During the rich and informative program, Kathryn Barger; Los Angeles County Supervisor of the 5th District, the largest in Los Angeles County, following her short speech, presented through her efforts, a $1 million check from the LA County to the Armenian American Museum to assist the construction and establishment of the Cultural Center in Glendale.

Posted in News

Agreement Signed to Build $250 Million New Unit for Yerevan Thermal Power Plant

An agreement has been signed to build a new gas-vapor cycle unit for Yerevan Thermal Power Plant, Garegin Baghramyan, Armenian acting energy infrastructures and natural resources minister said the previous week. In his words, the construction is estimated to cost $250 million, and the price for the electric power generated by the plant will be lower than that generated by other thermal power plants.

The government started negotiating over the matter yet in 2017, but the final agreement was signed just last week on November 15. “The long term negotiation has resulted in the agreement and the arrangement that the electric power generated by the thermal power plant will be driven down from 6.02 cents to 5.7 cents,” Baghramyan said. “We have managed to save $6.4 million a year from the implementation of the project, and this amounts to $160 million for 25 years.” In fact, he said, the electric power will cost AMD 27.4 and this is already four drams less than the present price for the electric power produced by Hrazdan Thermal Power Plant (31.5 drams) and even the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant (29.4) drams.

Baghramyan said that the lowered price for the electric power will drive retail power price down, since wholesale supply will become cheaper as well. He said that quite new and high-professional technologies will be applied at the plant. “Financial matters will be settled within two months and the construction of the unit will take some 26 months, after which 200-250 employees with quite high salaries will work here,” he said. “The new plant will be built near the old Yerevan Thermal Power Plant.” Baghramyan said that the old 400 mega-watt unit is planned to stop operating in 2019 or 2020. He also said that demand for electric power is expected to be growing in the country, given the construction of 110-megawatt mining farms, the program with Iran “Gas for Electricity” and the construction of the third Armenia-Iran electric power line.

Giovanni Rubini, Chief Executive Officer at RENCO SPA, on his side, said that the project will be implemented jointly with Siemens Company, which will receive 40% of the shares of the new 250-megawatt unit, while the remaining 60% will belong to RENCO and an Italian state owned company.

The plant is estimated to operate for 25 years.

Rubini said this is a very important project for Armenia and for the company itself, since for the first time in over 20 years of its activity in the country it engages in its direct business – construction of power-generating units and generation of electricity.

Posted in News

PM Pashinyan Meets with SDHP Central Committee Delegation

Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan received on November 6th, the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party (SDHP) central Committee delegation, headed by Chairman Hampik Sarafian.

The meeting discussed issues related to Armenia-Diaspora relations, as well as the ongoing political transformations in Armenia. Appreciating the role played by the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party in preserving the Armenian identity, strengthening cooperation between Armenia and the Diaspora, Pashinyan expressed hope that Armenia’s political developments would help wind up Homeland’s relations with the Diaspora and Diaspora-based Armenian political organizations.

The SDHP Central Committee Chairman welcomed the changes taking place in Armenia and stressed that his party was fully supportive of Nikol Pashinyan’s team in building democratic statehood based on the rule of law, ensuring economic development and implementing reforms. The interlocutors talked about the furtherance of Armenia-Diaspora relations talked about the furtherance of Armenia-Diaspora relations.

Pashinyan emphasized that effective mechanisms should be worked out in order to involve the Diaspora’s huge potential in the development of Armenia. The SDHP Central Committee members assured of their readiness to closely cooperate with the Armenian government in this direction.

Posted in News

Democrat Mari Manoogian,26, Elected to Michigan State House

Mari Manoogian, 26, a former U.S State Department worker, won the Michigan State House District 40 seat, currently held by Republicans. Birmingham resident and Democrat Mari Manoogian defeated Republican David Wolkinson in the November 6th elections. Manoogian received 30,223 votes compared to 23,221 for Wolkinson, a former vice chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Mari Manoogian was born and raised in Birmingham, Michigan. She attended Birmingham Public Schools and graduated with honors from Seaholm High School. Mari’s great-grandparents escaped the Armenian Genocide and came to the United States in the early 1920s. Her father’s and mother’s families arrived in Michigan via Ellis Island, and ultimately settled in the Detroit area.

Posted in News

Ambassador Arma Kirakossian Introduces Key Points of Armenia’s Position on NK Conflict to OSCE

Ambassador Arman Kirakossian, Head of Permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia to the OSCE, delivered remarks at the 1200th session of the OSCE Perment Council in response to the annual report of the OSCE Minks Group Co-Chairs.

In his remarks Ambassador Kirakossian thanked the OSCE Minks Group Co-Chairs for the efforts put for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict and added that 2018 is marked with an important anniversary: in February 1988, the regional council of the people’s deputies of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast made a decision asking the Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan to approach with understanding to the will and dreams of the Armenian population of Karabakh and agree on the transfer of the Oblast from Azerbaijan, in response to this appeal of self-determination, carried out violence, deportations, crimes and unleash a war.

Ambassador Kirakossian stated that since that time the status and security of Artsakh became the most important elements of the conflict settlement. The Armenian highlighted that today the Armenian people highly value democracy and human rights, which wad approved this spring by the peaceful and democratic changes that took place in Armenia as a result of which early parliamentary elections will be held this December.

Talking about the position of the new Armenian leadership on the conflict settlement, the Ambassador outlined several key points:

The first one –the status and security of the Artsakh people are one of the most important issues for the conflict settlement and are the absolute priority of Armenia.

The second one – the people and authorities of Artsakh must have a decisive voice in the conflict settlement process. Any attempt to isolate Artsakh and its people from the conflict settlement process contradicts to both the causes of the conflict’s origins and the existing reality. Artsakh is populated by its native people who historically constantly comprised an absolute majority, including at all stages of the conflict.

The third one – Armenia continues supporting the efforts of hte Minks Group Co-Chairs (Russia, US and France) aimed at settling the conflict exclusively through peaceful means

The fourth one –the conflict cannot have a military solution, and the military scenarios should be rejected unconditionally. The 2016 April military adventurism had a negative impact on the peace process. The current positive dynamics, which was formed as a result of the recent meetings and the agreements reached in Dushanbe, must be followed by an implementation of actions aimed at strengthening trust and security already agreed upon in Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Geneva, which role in mitigating the tension in the Line of Contact and the border. In its turn it will strengthen the OSCE presence in the conflict zone.

The fifth one — the creation of atmosphere contributing to peace requires not only reduction of tension and introduction of monitoring mechanisms, but also preparing people to peace, the hostile rhetoric and maximalist positions questions the possibilities of mutual concession.

Ambassador Arman Kirakossian also thanked the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and his team for strengthening the ceasefire regime and the trust between sides.

Posted in News

Tanzanian Businessman to Invest $11.5 Million in Crocodile Farm in Armenia’s Ararat Province

A Crocodile farm that will be set up in the Dashtavan community of the Armenian province of Ararat will serve also as a recreation area, the provincial governor Garik Sargsyan said. In his words, the farm will also treat crocodile meat to all those who would like to taste what he called “exotic meat”. He said the investor has already acquired the land plot and is doing now gardening work and planting trees. The active phase of the construction is supposed to begin in spring. According to the governor, crocodiles will be bred in incubators, but it is not known yet when the first “local” crocodile will hatch. “The area where crocodiles will be bred will be framed in the form of a park where everyone will be able to stroll with the family, and the children will be able to see crocodiles. There will also be fast-food outlets, restaurants and attractions,” according to the governor.

The initiative to breed crocodiles in Armenia belongs to an entrepreneur from Tanzania who carries out similar projects in other countries. The governor said the first year investments will amount to $1.5 million. Another $10 million are to be invested in the next five years.

Some 100 Nile crocodile eggs will be imported; in the future their number is to increase to 1000. The bulk of the meat will be exported to East Asia, and the leather to Europe.

Posted in News

Majority of Armenian Caucus Members Re-elected in Midterm Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C — In the House of Representatives, the Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues had a strong showing with the overwhelming majority (over 92 percent) of those seeking re-election winning in the 2018 midterm elections, including Co-Chairs Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jackie Spier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Vice Co-Chairs Adams Schiff (D-CA), and Gus Biliraks (R-FL), the Armenian Assembly of America reported.

“We congratulate all of our friends in Congress on their victories, and look forward to meeting with the new Members when the 116th Congress begins,” stated Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “The Armenian Assembly also appreciates the strong support of our friends who will not be returning to Congress and wish them every success, especially outgoing House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Dave Trott (R-MI) he added.

Posted in News

Ararat Home of Los Angeles More Than Doubles the Size of its Mission Hills Campus

MISSION HILLS, CA — The Board of Trustees of the Ararat Home of Los Angeles (the Home) purchased of almost 13 acres of land just west of its Mission Hills Campus. The property was purchased from the Ararat Home’s two long-time neighbors, friend of the Home and the community, Dr. Otto Klinger and Mr. Harold Sturgeon over the last five months. Although still in the early stages of design, the Home is planning to build facilities ranging from independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care facilities.

The design included beautiful park-like grounds, trails, activity center and parking for over 400 cars. Derik Ghookasian, COO of the Ararat Home said “We are excited for the opportunities this endeavor presents toward building greater capacity to meet the growing needs of the Armenian community. With this expansion, Ararat Home will become a continuing care retirement community and will be able to provide even more comprehensive care for our elderly. There are many people to thank for making this happen including the Board’s Long-Term Planning Committee, The Home’s COO, Dr. Klinger, Mr. Sturgeon, Stephen Hampar of Hampar Properties who volunteered his services, George Phillips, Jr. of Phillips Law Partners, as well as past and present Board of Trustees members”, said Michael Surmeian, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “The continued support of the Armenian Community, the Ararat Guilds and numerous Armenian organizations and the Home’s benefactors have made this purchase possible. This support has helped made this purchase possible. This support has helped secure the legacy of the Ararat home for the next 100 years. As we celebrate our 71st year, starting with just 14 residents, to today with two locations housing hundreds of residents, top notch employees and management, we can all feel proud that this work; our work, makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives,” Surmeian asserted.

Founded in 1949, Ararat Home is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-denominational organization that operates three residential care and nursing facilities on two campuses and serves as a cultural center for the Armenian community in the Los Angeles area.

The Home strives to provide high quality care in a tranquil, uniquely Armenian, home-like environment at the Assisted Living and Nursing Facilities in Mission Hills as well as the Convalescent Hospital in Eagle Rock.

The main campus in Mission Hills also includes facilities that serve the Armenian community. The George Deukmejian Center’s Grand Ballroom provides a space for community events and gatherings. Sheen Memorial Chapel is a house of worship appropriate for holding various religious services. The ethnographic Ararat-Eskijian Museum preserves the history and heritage of the Armenian people and educates the community through its collection of artwork and artifacts, a research library, and an ongoing series of scholarly presentations and cultural events.

As Ararat embarks on the new venture, the financial and moral support of the community is of utmost importance. Community members are invited to visit the beautiful campuses and get acquainted with the monumental achievements of the Home. Contributions to the Home are tax deductible and can be made by contacting the facilities.

Posted in News

Per Capita GDP in Armenia to Grow to $4,604 by the End of 2019, Finance Minister Says

Gross Domestic Product in Armenia will grow per capita to $4,604 by the end of 2019, Atom Jajughazyan, acting finance minister, said while presenting the 2019 draft government budget to the parliamentary committees.

In his words, the per capita GDP stood at $420 in 1995. It grew to $3,512 in 2015 and reached $4,280 in 2018. “This is not the best indicator and it is necessary to make efforts for its growth, all the more so its segments are not equal, especially taking into account the poverty rate,” he said. “It can’t be said that we are satisfied with the result that we will strain after higher indicators.”

Janjughazyan said that the draft government budget for 2019 has three key peculiarities – application of new tax and budgetary rules, program format and inclusion of out-of-budget financial resources.

He said that certain risks for Armenia are still present as the global economy growth pace is stabilizing. The risks are present also because prices at raw material markets, especially mining industry, are going down and the oil price is downed. This will strike at Armenia’s trade partners, including Russia and EU countries.

Speaking about GDP growth, Janjughazyan said that economic growth in the 2019 draft budget is projected at 4.9% against the 4.5 percent projected in the 2018 government budget. He said the GDP growth in 2018 will exceed the budget projected indicator reaching 4.9 to 5.9%, but it will not reach the forecasted 6 to 6.5% because of things in agriculture.

Presenting the key indicators of the 2019 draft budget, the acting finance minister said that the budget revenue is projected at AMD 1.5 trillion, spending at AMD 1.6 trillion and deficit at around AMD 150 billion.

According to the draft budget, capital spending will grow in 2019 to 3% of GDP from the 2.3% expected in 2018.

Posted in News