January 25, 2013


On holding live TV debates during the 2013 presidential run-up in Armenia

There is a widespread opinion in our society that the ongoing presidential campaign is not competitive and meaningful, and the discussions about platforms and positions of the potential presidential candidates are significantly belated. The reason for all this was the ambiguity around the nomination or endorsement of a presidential candidate by the three parliamentary parties, which have the biggest share of seats at the RA National Assembly after the Republican Party of Armenia. Moreover, the presidential campaign does not cover the positions of these political forces on various issues, which the newly elected Head of State may face.

Under these circumstances, the holding of TV debates is of particular importance (see details in YPC Review). This would allow – at least before the voting day – for diverse and competitive discussion on the candidates’ visions and ideas about the development of the country. The candidates should be ready to confront the challenges Armenia faces, while the media should help the voters to understand how well each candidate for the highest office is prepared.

Taking into account that

– in the case of Armenia, it is not possible to follow the well-known international practice, when the TV debates include the two “main” candidates,

– the candidates have already voiced their refusal to face certain opponents at the debates,

– it is not possible to hold debates using “each versus each” principle, given the large number of participants in the campaign.

Nevertheless, considering the crucial importance of the debates,

We call the TV companies and the candidates to launch live TV programs with the participation of the electoral teams of the 8 presidential candidates.

The most realistic format for the TV debates is the following: campaign headquarters choose who and how will take part in the discussion (e.g., the candidate, the chief of the headquarters, its press secretary, proxy or representative of a party supporting the candidate, etc.). It would be preferable that the refusal of one candidate to participate in the debates is not a cause for other candidates to decline the debates: in these cases the considerations about the “worthiness” of participation or the principle of “having equal statuses” should not be a priority. Candidates should primarily seek to present their electoral platforms to the voters as adequately as possible.

The refusal of a candidate or his headquarters to take part in the debates does not mean violation of the principle of equal opportunities. This principle is considered secured when all parties receive appropriate invitations. The media outlet that organizes the debates is obliged to inform the viewers which candidate (headquarters) and for what reason does not take part in the discussion.

It would be reasonable, if the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia is the first to come up with such an initiative, given its special mission. However, similar initiatives on the part of private broadcasters are equally welcomed.

We suggest holding debates in several (3-4) stages (programs). Each of the programs should deal with a specific theme, e.g.: economy, social welfare, foreign policy, development of democratic institutions in Armenia, etc. Obviously, necessary technical facilities, providing equal time for all the participants, should be ensured.

The statement of Yerevan Press Club is open for signature for NGOs and media