July 18, 2008

PFA Report on “Armenia’s 2008 Presidential Election”

For those who have been far from Armenia or who have not actively followed the plethora of developments that have occurred in the country for the past six months, the report encompassing a nearly full picture of the current situation in Armenia has finally become available. “Armenia’s 2008 Presidential Election: Select Issue an Analysis” is a report recently released by Policy Forum Armenia (PFA), a newly found association.

The report is the first of its kind following the February 19, 2008 Presidential Election of Armenia since it provides a full description of the pre-election and post-election events. The report includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The information provided in the qualitative sections of this report is mainly based on Armenian local and international newspaper articles, reports released by international organization as well as blogs on the internet. Unlike the primarily technical reports by OSCE/ODIHR, the report does not just limit itself to describing the 2008 presidential elections, but also presents it in the larger context of political and social developments of post-Soviet Armenia.

For those who have closely followed the political developments in Armenia, a particularly interesting section of the report may be the section on the “Statistical Analysis of the Official Election Outcome”. In this section the authors utilize a number of tests developed in the 1990s by Sobianin and Sukhovolskiy, and later revised by other scholars such as Gelman, Kaiunov, Michael Myagkov (University of Oregon), Peter Ordeshook (California Institute of Technology), and their co-authors. The analysis of the election results through this methodology indicates inconsistencies in the 2008 Presidential Election. For example, the report reveals that there was much higher voter turnout in the regions outside of the capital city-Yerevan. This is unlikely, as generally considerably more civic activism is observed in Yerevan as opposed to the rural areas. Out of the 1,923 polling stations in Armenia more than 129 polling stations had higher than 90 percent voter turnout (p. 21, see figure below). Such turnout levels are highly unlikely, especially given the high migration levels. The other tests reveal inconsistencies within the distribution of individual candidates’ votes, in the relationship between the candidates’ votes and voter turnout, and within the distribution of invalid ballots. The report is careful to specify that the statistical findings do not provide definitive proof of election fraud, but only an (albeit powerful) indication.

Finally, the report concludes with a full section devoted to the civil society awakening in Armenia in connection with the 2008 Presidential Election. More specifically, the final section discusses the increase in the activism especially among women and the youth, as well as the rise in information sharing and networking through the internet. While the report does not provide any innovative recommendations to mediate the post-election discontent in Armenia, it provides a solid ground for policy makers to put the events of the past six months into perspective, assess what the available tools are and put the February 19, 2008 elections into the wider political context of Armenia’s newly independent history.

On a side note, similar studies of election fraud and perception were conducted by CRRC fellows in 2005 by Dr. Masis Poghosyan and Sergey Harutyunyan.

For more detail, check out the report itself at http://www.pf-armenia.org/.

July 15, 2008

Orientation Training on Social Bookmarking and Networking

What is the buzz about social networks and how to benefit them? Why share bookmarks online and how to discover websites based on ratings by other people? Social bookmarking and networking trends were discussed during the orientation training conducted by CRRC-Armenian librarian Gohar Khachatryan on June 14, 2008.

July 14, 2008

The Problem of Adaptation of the Diaspora Armenians in Armenian Society

Difficulties with socio-economic integration – unemployment and a feeling of being “a society within a society,” are some of the examples from the list of problems Diaspora Armenians face when immigrating to Armenia. CRRC-Armenia fellow, Anahit Mkrtchyan, researched why these issues are problematic for the Diaspora Armenians and made policy recommendations.

As the researcher finds, integration of immigrant Armenians into the Armenian society is rather weak, because of a number of essential differences in values, lifestyle, dialect, moral principles and ideology peculiar to both immigrant and local Armenians. Furthermore, Diaspora Armenians lack information on their homeland and have high expectation before moving to Armenia, which also causes difficulties for their full adaptation to the Armenian reality.

According to Mkrtchyan, attitudes of different groups toward creating integration policy vary. Local authorities avoid having repatriation and integration policies because immigrants can become competitive at the top levels in government and in business, also fear increased real estate costs. Many experts do understand the serious need of repatriation and integration policy, as repatriates will help to cultivate culture, legitimacy and civic attitudes in Armenian society. A group of representatives of Diaspora structures is sure that this policy is important, as the Diaspora faces assimilation, and there is a lack of patriotism among the younger generation.

Based on the local and Diaspora experts’ suggestions and findings, Anahit made the following policy recommendations:

• Consolidation of Armenian structures around two parallel missions and joint involvement in their realization.
• A nation wide integration program directed at better coordination of integration measures, offered on national and local levels. Involvement of trade unions, welfare structures, voluntary and social advocacy organizations and neighborhoods in drafting the adaptation and integration program. (Read more)

Mkrtchyan's work was published in the Turkish daily "Agos" in May 2008. The paper (PDF) in English is also available on the CRRC-Armenia website.

July 7, 2008

CRRC Publication Research Fellowship 2008 Available

Explore issues - handle data - satisfy your curiosity - get published - generate opportunities
CRRC is offering a round of research fellowships. Are you curious about a social issue? Do you have some ideas or hypotheses that you want to explore further? This fellowship could be the perfect opportunity for you!

What issues are we looking to address?
We're looking for social science research that addresses pressing issues your country faces. The Millennium Development Goals (click here) constitute one such urgent research agenda. Other likely issues include child poverty, youth, social capital, migration and democratization. Pretty much any advanced analysis based on our Data Initiative is of interest to us. We can also help you develop your topic if you are unsure about it, but are committed to undertaking professional research. Check "CRRC Fellowship" in the label cloud on the left.

What results?
We want you to produce international quality research. You should aim to publish your research in a peer-reviewed journal (we will help you find one). This will give your research international recognition. We also expect your work to contain prescriptive richness and ask you to present your findings to relevant interested groups (international, organizations, NGOs, government agencies) in your home country. We definitely want you to use some of our great data from the Data initiative 2007.

Who is the fellowship for?
You are smart, committed, curious and want to apply all your abilities. Typically you will have at least a Master's Degree. You are committed to develop your research ability and have a track record of excellence. You may work in fields other than research, but you are interested in getting back into research because you realize there are excellent long-term opportunities there. We require a working knowledge of English, since you want to publish internationally. Exceptions can be made for those doing quantitative and survey work. (Sorry, no funding for stipends abroad, or for those who live outside the Caucasus.)

What do you get?
Primarily you get the satisfaction of doing excellent work and of being part of a small but vibrant community of internationally recognized research scholars in the South Caucasus. Moreover, if you get published internationally, many opportunities follow. The fellowship provides an opportunity to prove your professionalism, which you can use for many other applications (jobs, consultancy work, joint research projects, conference participation, international research stipends such as CRRC's Carnegie Fellowship, to name the most obvious). Depending on your research project, you can also get between USD 2000 and 4000 for pursuing your research interest (surveys, for example, may have higher costs).

Is it easy?
Yes and no. We will help at every step. But it certainly is not easy money. In research you confront new challenges and difficult decisions all the time. That is why we are doing it, after all. It requires determination and persistence -- we hope you will join us in the thrill of discovery.

How to prepare?
Our online application procedure is specifically designed to help you develop your research proposal. Write us a short email now (latest by July 18, 2008) to Melissa at melissa@crrccenters.org to find out more, telling us about your field or interest, and, if you have it, your provisional research topic. We will end you an email to let you know about the next step and to invite you to discuss your ideas at our open houses.

Survey Data Quality Assessment: Methodology and Techniques

The quality of data collected through sociological surveys is essential for ensuring representativeness of information, its reliability and accuracy. Survey data quality involves many aspects ranging from sample approach, instrument development to data processing and creation of the dataset.

The lecture "Survey Data Quality Assessment: Methodology and Techniques", organized by CRRC-Armenia and MCA-Armenia and conducted by Dr. Fritz Scheuren (USA) on July 7, 2008, elaborated on two aspects of improving quality of survey data with a focus on the Integrated Survey of Living Standards conducted by the National Statistical Service of Armenia.