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A single example will illustrate the difference in the financial resources of the two campaigns: according to Boris Navasardyan, head of Yerevan’s Press Club, which has been monitoring the media during the campaign, the supporters of reform paid out for 26 times more TV air time than their opponents.The referendum, unlike all previous voting processes, has been marked by an almost complete absence of public opinion polls.To take one example: heading the ‘Yes’ campaign is none other than Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan.He has six senior officials as his deputies, including the head of the presidential administration Vigen Sarkisyan, the minister for Territorial Administration and Emergencies Armen Yeritsyan, the head of the presidential Control Service Hovik Hovsepyan and other august figures wielding considerable power.
They know that there is no real need for constitutional change, and that the proposed reforms have only one goal – to leave Sargsyan in power, but in a new guise.
However, although official reports of the last parliamentary and presidential elections show a turnout of 1.6m voters, in fact generally only a million or so Armenians take part in elections, and the extra supposed support for the ruling Republican Party is usually the result of rigging and the votes of ‘dead souls’ – the half million Armenians working abroad, mostly in Russia. In the past this allowed people to vote only on production of a passport.
But on the eve of the referendum, Parliament voted through an amendment to allow voting on an ID card, without any system of checks on whether its holder had voted at more than one polling station.
47 per cent out of a poll of 1105 respondents said they would not vote, and 11 per cent were ‘don’t knows’.
Furthermore, 29 per cent said they would vote for constitutional reform, 26 per cent that they would vote against and the remaining 45 per cent of respondents ‘didn’t know’.
Most people oppose the changes, but that doesn’t mean they will win.