Do ideas count in Armenia's May 12 parliamentary vote? The answer appears to be no.
The unfulfilled promises of previous campaigns have left a large segment of the Armenian electorate feeling disillusioned. Pollsters, candidates and voters all state that handouts and free pop concerts are doing more to sway attitudes about a particular party or candidate than are specific policy proposals. Many Armenians, in fact, joke that a prize should be given to anyone who can find five differences between the platforms of the 24 parties competing for parliamentary seats.
Members of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly observation mission have bemoaned the lack of emphasis on public policy, telling journalists on April 14 that "no significant differences can be found in the platforms of the candidates and the parties."
"Many perceive this election as a struggle between political elites, not ideas and principles," said the PACE mission head, Leo Platvoet.
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Gayane Abrahamyan is a reporter for the ArmeniaNow online weekly in Yerevan.