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Edik Baghdasaryan

Shadow economy godfathers get into parliament

1,234,546 people voted in the parliamentary elections and the referendum on constitutional amendments held on May 25, 2203. The race took place in 75 proportional and 56 majoritarian precincts.

Late in the evening of May 26th, the Central Election Commission (CEC) summarized the preliminary returns. The constitutional amendments did not gain voter approval and election returns were worse than expected. The Armenian elections were won by shadow economy godfathers.

In the proportional race, the parties who received the 5% minimum required for seats in parliament were the National Unity Party (8.36%), the Ardarutiun (Justice) Bloc (12.93%), the Republican Party of Armenia (22.36%), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutiun (10.87%), the Orinats Yerkir Party (11.75%) and the United Labor Party (5.46%).

The success of the United Labor Party (ULP), which was created just three months ago, has taken everybody by surprise. Indeed, our express survey (23 people in the streets) revealed that no one has heard of the party. The ULP is headed by businessman Gurgen Arsenyan. He is involved in the oil and cigarette trade, and owns a number of other businesses. Two months ago, Arsenyan bought the Kentron TV Station as well.

The Communist Party failed to make it into parliament. And despite campaigning vigorously and spending huge amounts of money, the Ramkavar-Azatakan Party didn’t overcome the 5% threshold either. We remind you that this party was supported by the well-known Russian businessman and president of the Union of Armenians of Russia, Ara Abrahamyan, whose brother, businessman Gagik Abrahamyan, was number two on the Ramkavar-Azatakan list.

As it was expected, men of means got into parliament -- most of them shadow economy representatives.

Nicknamed businessmen won the elections, because thanks to their persistent and consistent efforts, elections in Armenia have become a specific business, in which all problems are solved with election bribes.

To avoid headaches, many of these rich men isolated their opponents and went it alone, as they did in Soviet times. Their opponents simply predicted the results and abandoned the idea of keeping step with the rich. There is information that they received monetary rewards and in some cases promises in exchange for withdrawing from the race. The solo candidates were Levon Sargisyan, known as Flour Mill Lyov; Samvel Alexanyan, known as Lfik Samo, Pntik (Slob) Samo, or Pesok (Sugar) Samo; Volodya Badalyan (President Kocharyan’s in-law); and Hrant Grigoryan (nephew of Deputy Defense Minister Manvel Grigoryan).

Levon Sargissyan owns flourmills and a number of stores. Samvel Alexanyan has a monopoly on sugar imports, and owns a number of stores, sunflower-seed oil and vodka production, and other businesses. Volodya Badalyan (Kocharyan’s in-law) is the owner of the Khimreaktive chemical reagent plant and the Olympia hotel complex, and trades in seeds. Hrant Grigoryan is the owner of the microbus routes in Echmiadzin and Armavir, and other profitable businesses.

Other businessmen elected in majoritarian precincts were:

The president of the Football Federation of Armenia, Ruben Hairapetyan, known as Nemets (German) Rubo.

The president of Armagrobank, CJSC, Hakob Hakobyan, known as Choyt. Choyt also owns restaurants, stores, and a hotel.

The president of Max Group, businessman Harutyun Pambukyan. Pambukyan owns a poultry plant, restaurants, and other businesses. He was responsible for bringing to Armenia the offshore company, Midland Resources, which bought the Armenian electricity network. He is a shareholder in Midland.

Henrik Abrahamyan. Abrahamyan is the brother of Minister for Local Governance Hovik Abrahamyan. He owns microbus routes, gas stations, a winery, a flourmill, restaurants, and a good deal of land in the Ararat valley.

The chairman of the board of directors of the Hrazdan Sport Complex and Bazaar, Ashot Aghababyan, known as Bournash.

The president of Sil Group, Katchatur Sukyasyan, known as Grzo. Sukiasyan’s business interests have no limits. He deals with everything-- banking, hotels, wood export, various product lines, stores, and a restaurant chain.

Through the efforts of the president of Grand Holding, Hrant Vartanyan, a number of people were elected to parliament: The executive director of the Masis Tobacco Company, Samvel Sahakyan, known as Tootoon (Tobacco); and three of the thirteen businesspeople on the ARF Dashnaktsutiun list -- the director of the Grand Candy Company, Armenuhi Hovhanissyan; the director of International Masis Tobacco, Hrant Vartanyan’s son, Mikayel Vartanyan; and the chairman of the board of directors of the Avshar Winery, Araik Grgoryan.

Also elected were the president of the Vedi Alco Company, Manvel Ghazaryan; the president of Multi Group, Gagik Tsarukyan, known as Dodi (Dummy) Gago; Mkrtich Minassyan, known as Kotuk (Tree Stump), who owns gas stations and stores in the Nor Nork district; Armen Mkhitaryan, known as Mkhik, who owns a department store in Arabkir and a pasta company; Manvel Nazaryan (brother of Gel (Wolf) Hakob), who owns businesses in Moscow; Hakob Hakobyan, known as Lady Hakob, who owns a bazaar and stores in the Malatia-Sebastia district; Versand Hakobyan, who is a share holder in the Yerevan champagne-winery, owns restaurants and a Hyundai dealership, is Hyundai’s representative in Armenia, and imports cars; Grigor Markaryan, known as Bellagio Grish, a member of the Orinats Yerkir Party, who owns a number of restaurants in Yerevan, and is currently building a hotel complex in the neighborhood of the Yerevan Zoo; Vram Gyulzadyan, known as Kartol (Potato),another member of Orinats Yerkir, who owns a potato business; Gevorg Hakopyan, known as Kombikorm (Animal Fodder) Vlad, who owns an animal fodder plant, a vodka distillery, restaurants, and warehouses; Suren Khatchatryan, known as Litska, who controls all trading enterprises and restaurants in Goris, is a shareholder in Jermuk Super Company, and owns a cheese plant and gas stations; Vahram Baghdasaryan, know as Gort (Frog), who owns factories and stores; Samvel Balassanyan, who owns the Poloz Mukutch Restaurant in Yerevan and a brewery in Gyumri; Nahapet Gevorgyan, who owns several quarries in the Armavir Marz; and Artyusha Gasparyan, known as Tyush, who imports flowers from Holland.

This is not a complete list of all businessmen-deputies. We will continue to introduce the chosen legislators and their occupations.

The ruling Republican Party received the most seats in parliament, and in all probability the government will be formed from among the first ten or twenty names on their party list, and the next ten or twenty will go to parliament. And here, too, a great number are businessmen.

The same is true of Orinats Yerkir, which won the second largest number of seats, and whose list mainly consists of businessmen.

It can be said that all the representatives of the Armenian economy get into parliament, and according to international experts, the Armenian economy is 60% shadow. Clearly, this parliament will never pass any laws that are bad for their bottom lines.

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