by Natalia Leshchenko

Global Insight
January 8, 2008

A key contender in the Armenian presidential election, former president
Lev Ter-Petrossian has published his election manifesto.

The 16-page document pledges three directions of economic reform: a
level playing field for all businesspeople, fair economic competition,
and absolute protection of private property.

Ter-Petrossian also targets large corporations to improve collection
of taxes, promising to raise the share of large corporate tax payers
in the state budget revenues from the current 22% to 75%. At the same
time, Ter-Petrossian promises to help small companies by shortening
the requirements for the qualification of the "simplified tax",
as introduced from 1 January 2008. These measures, the candidate
claims, would double Armenia's GDO and triple its state budget in
the next five years, according to Radio Liberty. On foreign policy,
Ter-Petrossian pledges efforts to normalise relations with Turkey
and Azerbaijan, without specifying ways to achieve settlement in the
Armenia-supported Nagorno-Karabakh breakaway province of Azerbaijan.

Significance:Ter-Petrossian's manifesto is full of bitter criticism
of the ruling government and his electoral rival Serzh Sargsyan,
currently the prime minister. It is still not clear what audience
Ter-Petrossian targets in this campaign. Accusations of corruption
and promises of higher state revenues at the expense of corporations
are supposedly addressed to the poorer social strata, whereas the
economic reform agenda is rather liberal and business-friendly.

Overall, politicians' personal images tend to overwhelm their political
pledges in defining the electorate's priorities, and Ter-Petrossian
now faces the task of galvanising the population and harnessing any
protest sentiments against the Sargsyian government.

This may matter more than electoral manifesto pledges.