The United States welcomes the unfolding dialogue between Armenia’s political leadership and largest opposition force and hopes it will foster the proper conduct of the next Armenian elections, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch said on Friday.
Yovanovitch praised the authorities in Yerevan for freeing all opposition members remaining in prison, launching a fresh investigation into the 2008 post-election unrest and allowing opposition rallies in the city’s Liberty Square.
“It’s important that that dialogue be transparent, it’s important that it be a constructive dialogue,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in a farewell interview. “We’ll have to see where that takes Armenia.”
“But I think it’s very exciting and I think there are big opportunities as Armenia enters this two-year period of elections,” she said.
The concessions made President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration met the three preconditions for such dialogue set by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). U.S. officials have repeatedly called for such steps in the past three years.
“I think that an investigation and the release of the detainees allows people -- instead of looking backwards to what happened in 2008, as important as that is -- to look forward to parliamentary elections, to presidential elections and try to plan for the future,” Yovanovitch said. “Hopefully there will be a robust contest of ideas.”
In that regard, the diplomat made a largely positive assessment of amendments to the Armenian Electoral Code that were recently enacted by the authorities. “What’s going to be really important, though, is how the law is implemented,” she said. “That is absolutely critical.”
“And I think there is going to have to be a strong and very clear signal that what is wanted is a free and fair election,” added Yovanovitch. “That’s important for Armenia’s future.”
Yovanovitch similarly made a case for democratic elections for the country in a much-discussed speech at Yerevan State University last February. She urged the Armenian government to also press ahead with other “deep and difficult” reforms.
In a separate farewell statement issued on Friday, the envoy made clear that Washington will “continue to champion democracy” because it is “fundamental to Armenia's political and economic development.”
“The upcoming elections represent opportunities to restore broad faith in Armenian democracy,” read the statement. “Only Armenians themselves can take the steps to fulfill their democratic aspirations, but the American people stand ready to help Armenia realize this moment for progress.”