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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07YEREVAN485 2007-04-20 12:58:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

AMID ELECTORAL IMPROVEMENTS, VIOLENCE PUNCTUATES SCENE

Tags:   PGOV KDEM AM 
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Campaign events around Armenia this week have
been largely uneventful; several parties - including opposition --
successfully staged rallies without government interference,
garnering modest attendance despite poor weather. The Police
announced significant progress in their work to update the voter
registry. The calm was punctuated, however, by gunfire in Yerevan
April 20, which is the third instance of violence in recent weeks.
This sudden rash of violent incidents is an unusual and most
unwelcome side-effect of an otherwise encouraging campaign season.
END SUMMARY




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POLICE ANNOUNCE VOTER LIST PROGRESS


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Local media widely covered a press conference with Alvina
Zakarian, chief of the passport and visa department of the Armenian
Police, who said that the initial voters lists have been purged of
the names of ineligible and deceased voters and that inaccuracies
brought to the attention of the department are being addressed.
Zakarian said the total number of eligible voters now stands at
2,318,493, after removing 10,254 people, which included 1,720 names
of the deceased, 3,283 people presently performing mandatory
military service, and 290 people who have sold their apartments. She
reported that in the past 10 days, over 300 citizens have exchanged
their Soviet passports for new ones and 3,550 have updated their
residence's address on the lists. The department has also initiated
a hotline for the public to report inaccuracies in the lists, noting
it has received 77 calls since its inception on 9 April.



--------------------------


RALLIES PROCEEDING FREELY


--------------------------





3. (SBU) This week's rallies appeared to proceed without government
interference, and opposition parties did not report any difficulties
informing authorities of their plans. Prime Minister Sargsyan
visited the Kanaker-Zeytun community of Yerevan, where he
highlighted progress made in the last seven years under the
Republican Party, specifying increases in pensions and teacher
salaries. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutyun (ARF)
held a town hall-style meeting where attendees raised concerns over
the lack of progress made by the party in the outgoing government;
ARF representatives at the meeting asked for more support on 12 May
as they can only do so much with the 11 seats it currently holds.



4. (SBU) Several opposition parties held rallies both in Yerevan
and in the southern regions, pulling modest attendance despite
inclement weather. Both the Orinats Yerkir and Republic parties
attracted approximately 100 attendees each in Yerevan on Thursday,
and press reporting did not indicate a noticeable police presence at
either location. Artashes Geghamian's National Unity Party
campaigned in rural Lori region, speaking to a mostly elderly crowd
whom he urged not to take bribes in exchange for their votes. Local
television showed Geghamian was greeted with long applause and
chanting of "Geghamian". The Heritage Party of Raffi Hovannissian
completed a two-day regional campaign tour of the Vayots Dzor and
Syunik regions south of Yerevan without interference, although
Hovannissian commented the small crowd appeared intimidated, without
specifying further details.



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ANOTHER VIOLENT INCIDENT MARS CAMPAIGN


--------------------------





5. (SBU) In the face of a calm week of energetic campaigning,
another outbreak of violence occurred Thursday in broad daylight on
the heels of last week's Prosperous Armenia office bombing (Ref A).
Press reported a gun fight broke out in Yerevan's Erebuni district
when unknown assailants fired on businessman Aram Vartanian, better
known as Vstrechi Aper, the youngish new director of a cement
factory in Yerevan. Our police contacts, who are still
investigating, told us that there had also been a bomb explosion at
the scene. Apparently no one was wounded in the incident. The
event has received surprisingly little media attention so far, and
details remain sketchy.




--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------






6. (SBU) These recurrent outbreaks of violence are a disturbing
anomaly. We suspect that the government is working to tamp down

YEREVAN 00000485 002.2 OF 002


these eruptions, and that probably is why news coverage has been so
slight. Given that these kinds of incidents are so unusual, we have
to presume they are election related, probably arising from
bare-knuckled back-room jostling between rival political circles,
most likely the Republicans and Prosperous Armenia.