Tag Archives: armenian politics

Wishes for Armenia in 2013

Happy New Year!At the end of every year I tend to be more pensive than usual, reviewing the events of the past twelve months, its successes and failures, and what I aspire to do or see change forthcoming. Below are a few wishes for Armenia in 2013.

1. I would like to see Armenians come together and collectively agree upon something that they value, whether it is justice, fair elections, environmental protection, competitive trade or anything else, and work towards achieving that. The citizenry has never been so fragmentized. Take the upcoming presidential elections. The three main opposition parties–ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, Armenian National Congress, and Prosperous Armenia–have refused to field their own candidates and will not rally around a single contender. They refuse to put aside their political differences and tone down their arrogance, citing an anticipated falsification of the vote as the reason to bow out. These are the same parties that complained about governmental corruption and regularly called for regime change. Their decision is a noble act of defeatism, nothing more. There is nothing honorable in refusing to take part in the democratic process. They are simply letting their people down. Unity in thought, actions and deeds is imperative.

2. Armenians need to be kinder to one another and respectful of personal space. I hear too much boisterous bickering, usually about nothing, through my closed windows. Whenever I walk down the street or roam in a market I often see two or more people carrying on about something, usually hollering at the top of their lungs. Some are intentionally antagonizing. There always seems to be a need to defend one’s honor or a matter of principle to uphold (I’ve fallen into this egocentric trap myself). Then you read about people harassing each other, even brutal beatings that unfortunately sometimes result in death as we saw earlier this year when an army doctor died at the hands of brainless thugs. Maybe it’s human nature, or the personality trait of the Armenian that can’t be undone. Regardless of the excuse, it’s time to cool down. It’s time for empathy.

3. To become more compassionate, Armenians need to have a better attitude about life, their surroundings and themselves. People have become too miserable and cynical. The “country’s not a country,” “there’s no justice” and “nothing to do but leave” slogans are sounding very stale; they’ve become meaningless when the people who repeat these words do nothing to reverse or prevent what they complain about. Perceptions about society must improve, people need to feel good about themselves and each other for society to thrive. Instead of pitying, they should be producing. The chronic negativism has to stop. I don’t want my son to grow up in a spiteful society, and I’m not alone.

Happy New Year. May 2013 bring you continued health, happiness and peace.

Graphic by Billy Alexander

Aren’t the Armenian presidential elections approaching?

who knowsThe 2013 Armenian presidential elections are two months away but no one seems to be talking about them. There is no single candidate from a united opposition because none of the parties can seem to agree on a five-year agenda.

ARF-Dashnaktsutyun brings forth commendable proposals–separate big business from government, keep an independent judiciary and have a so-called “parliamentary republic,” stripping the president of certain powers for the National Assembly to rule on. None of the other parties agree, but regardless, the ARF doesn’t have a candidate and their PR tactics have traditionally been abysmal.

No one is discussing how to combat emigration and the never-ending brain drain, an aggravating issue that should be at the top of anyone’s to-do list. The other day the Minister of Education Armen Ashotyan, a Republican, publically stated that young scientists are better off leaving Armenia because it’s better for the nation to have them working abroad, the logic of that mindset has yet to dawn on me. A minister is justifying emigration as being a necessary occurrence–anyone else find that odd? I haven’t read or heard a rebuttal from the opposition.

No one talks about how to accelerate the expansion of Armenia’s IT sector, which should be the prime concern of anyone following global trends of high economic activity. I know at least six bright young software developers who left Armenia out of sheer boredom to work for companies in the States like eHarmony, Microsoft and WMware, knowing all too well that there was little opportunity for career growth. Armenia certainly has the talent, but chances for applying ingenuity and innovation are few and far between. The needed investment in the IT industry is simply not there, and this government is clearly not doing enough to attract more. Mining and polluting the hell out of the country seem to be top priority.

Raffi Hovhannisian hinted at making a formal announcement of his candidacy, but he has a bad habit of changing his mind. It’s getting harder to understand his aim, particularly after the ugly divorce from the Free Democrats about who should give up their parliamentary seats (what?). Many people I’ve spoken to don’t know what to make of him, although he’s a “nice guy who means well.” He certainly does.

Meanwhile, the announcement of a former arm wrestler’s candidacy is being anticipated. An uneducated, clueless former arm wrestler turned influential oligarch, to be more precise.

What the hell is going on? Is that really the alternative? What about the youth, don’t they have anything to say? What about these boisterous environmental demonstrators, who won a small victory by preventing a neglected park from becoming an open-air shopping mall, but have yet to take a stand on anything politically related? Not a word. They post a lot of nice photos of themselves on Facebook though.

Youth groups have made huge strides in Armenian civil society since the last elections in 2008. They are not only waking people up to ecological dangers but have opened up discussion on taboo topics like domestic violence, oppression of citizens by those close to the government, homosexuality and gender inequality. I and surely countless thousands of others were anticipating something explosive from these activists, nonconformists, whatever you want to call them, a solid message about how to turn things around in Armenia’s social, economical and environmental spheres and who they would consider backing as a likely candidate. In other words, generate public debate. But I keep discerning cynicism and a lackadaisical, “yeah, whatever” attitude to politics from them.

I was hoping young people now living in the Armenian diaspora would offer insight, those who have earned degrees in higher education and have presumably seen firsthand what good governance entails and how a voting majority shapes a democratic nation. But we can’t hear anything. Might I just reiterate that the presidential elections are just two months away.

In my interview with Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian, who offers great insight on Armenian politics and is a true gentleman to boot, he told me that Armenian citizens traditionally don’t take the parliamentary elections seriously, as it has always been the presidential race that mattered. Fair enough. But I wonder how many people actually remember that to be true this time around because by the look of things, apathy reigns supreme in the conundrum that is the Armenian republic.

Image by Svilen Milev

March for Justice


Now that Ruben Hayrapetyan has resigned from the National Assembly thereby forfeiting his mandate by the will of the Armenian people, something even more important is being demanded–that he he brought to justice. Today a demonstration march began at 10:00 am in front of the National Assembly building on Baghramyan Street, then with the arrival of EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who is on a short working trip to the South Caucasus, the protesters moved to the main entrance to parliament on Karen Demirjian Street. From there the group marched to the Office of the Prosecutor General situated on Vasken Sargsyan Street near Republic Square. More of what happened and who said what can be read here and here.

A greater number of people are starting to rise from their long slumber.




















All photos by Anush Khachatryan

Open Discussion: How to Put an End to the Armenian Oligarchy

P1040126I want to open a discussion about what it will take to get rid of the oligarchic system that has long taken control of Armenia.

For years I have heard nothing but complaints about the various clan leaders who enjoy immunity from prosecution and use their power positions in government to essentially do whatever they want, like terrorizing Armenian citizens and even having them killed as in the case of Vahe Avetyan. There is a video of Ruben Hayrapetyan on YouTube boasting about how he’s harassed and “punished” people, even some at gunpoint, so that he gets his way. But not all peer powerheads are so brazen as to admit committing such acts.

Some of these men rarely do some kind of benevolent work so people won’t think very badly of them. Gagik Tsarukyan has done quite a bit to shed his bad guy image with his philanthropy, helping people mostly living throughout the Kotayk region–his wife has even opened a maternity clinic helping women having difficulty becoming pregnant. And his Prosperous Armenia Party is trying to distance himself from pro-government forces, whatever his intentions may be for doing so.

But by and large, the “oligarchs,” which could include government ministers and even the president himself, depending on your definition of the term and its scope, can manipulate the system whenever and however they want because they know most citizens are too scared, lazy, or apathetic to challenge them. They invest very little in the country; they don’t use their wealth to develop Armenia’s industrial and production capabilities for instance, and they pay employees running their numerous businesses low salaries, at or below the minimum wage in most cases. Only those in their inner circles including family members seem to be living the privileged life. Thanks to their exclusive distribution of wealth, narcissism in Armenian society is endemic.

The questions are: why do Armenian citizens continue to permit the oligarchic system to thrive, and what steps can they take to stop them? Leave your answers in the comments section below. No defeatist answers, please.

What happened on election day?


While walking my dog this evening I finally got to thinking about what went down on Sunday. Without having to do a lengthy, exhaustive analysis, I put what I know to use.

  1. Most people are discontent with the authorities in Armenia and are too spineless, lazy or clueless to do anything about it. This observation I gathered from my interactions with citizens over the last 10 years. So based on the logic that most people hate the authorities (unless they’re making money from their connection with them somehow, the number of those people being miniscule), there is no friggin’ way that 663,000 voters cast a ballot for the Republicans. Even if the entire Armenian army were forced to vote Republican, and every single public servant and state employee including teachers, doctors, etc. voted the same way, that would only amount to 100,000 at my guesstimate. Where’s the rest coming from–from those same morons who keep whining to me there’s no country and there’s no justice? Oh, I almost forgot about the guys crying about there being no laws. So what–they voted for the same people they loathe, the same people causing untold angst and psychological torment? Perhaps since there does seem to be a latent sadomasochistic element in the Armenian persona, but that’s a debate for another day. Back to proving my point.
  2. All the people I know voted for either the Heritage/Free Democrats alliance, ARF-Dashnaktsutyun or the Armenian National Congress. No one I know supports the authorities. Okay, I am mindful of the fact that I do not know over a half-million people in this country, but I am going to make an educated guess and say that there are many others that are like-minded as my family, friends and acquaintances.
  3. If indeed 663,000 ballots were not cast in the Republicans favor, not to mention the fact that there is no way you can actually falsify so many ballots to make it seem like the Republicans legitimately won, the only logical conclusion is that the numbers released by the Central Electoral Commission were invented, cleverly on a dynamic, rolling basis in “real time” all night long (there are many talented mathematicians in this great land and I’m sure they came up with a fantastic algorithm). We have yet to see the actual results because they are with the Commission under lock and key.

When do we get to see the actual results? Good question. Most of that depends on what deals have been brokered today. We still have tonight, too, to work out the important details of who gets what position or what’s in it for them. But if Prosperous Armenia Party is indeed serious about getting all democratic in this country as Oskanian keeps claiming, and the Armenian National Congress people still know how to say “fugget about it” tomorrow morning, not to mention the ARF and Heritage/Free Democrats being the bad asses they are born to be, we could have some protests and, dare I say, a movement to reverse what just happened. We might just see an Armenian public rising up, standing tall, demanding that the real election results be released, thereby putting the government at the mercy of the people for a change.

Eh, maybe not.