BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
From Hollywood’s Little Armenia to the republic whose capital is Yerevan, elections have been rife the past six weeks, with more to come.
Undoubtedly, much ink will be spilt, or pixels agitated, over what to make of the April 2nd results under the new electoral and governance system implemented in the Republic of Armenia for the first time since its adoption in late 2015. Only 61% of those eligible voted. The ruling party maintained its hold on power, though with just about the slimmest margin legally possible, and the political factions represented in parliament shrinking in number from six to four. My party, the ARF, held its own, but did not improve.
It seems there has been a reduction in the fraud, mostly at the ballot box and polling place. However, inappropriate activity was still abundant ahead of election day. School principals were used by the ruling party to promote its candidates. That party and at least one other were paying people to secure votes. The funny thing is, people seem to consider a matter of honor to abide by that transaction, even in the secrecy of the voting. But, the actual purchase of a voter’s preference is not seen as dishonorable. We have a long way to go.
I hope to get more information, first hand reports by election observers in the upcoming days. A significant number of Diasporans went to Armenia to participate in that capacity. Their perspectives will be valuable. Hopefully, the commentary from the local opposition that we hear will not be limited to acerbic criticism of the regime (deserved though it likely is), rather pointing to additional ways to clean up the country’s still quite corrupt election process.
Meanwhile, Burbank, Los Angeles, Glendale, and Pasadena have held elections, with largely positive results from an Armenian perspective. The first two have some races that ended up in runoffs. Burbank’s city council runoff is pretty tight. Armenian votes will really matter, and could tip the results one way or another (see the Burbank ANCA’s endorsements in the Primary Election, they have not changed). The extreme measures regarding development on some cities’ ballots did not pass, but if the city councils in LA and Santa Monica (two major ones) don’t act quickly to straighten out, clarify, and make consistent their processes regarding new construction, I have no doubt such propositions will be back on the ballot in short order.
In Glendale, the City council will now have four Armenian out of the five seats. This time, mostly reasonable, electable Armenians ran, and the outcome speaks to that. The same is true for the school and community college districts. Not only did the Glendale ANCA’s endorsees get into office, but also, where the ANCA had not taken a position, a reasonable person was elected who brings with him years of service. I am hopeful this is a sign that our community is maturing politically.
In the city of Gardena, Harout Kaskanian won a city council seat with 1760 votes. It looks like a little more than 5000 people cast ballots. I had not heard of this gentleman until just before the March 7 elections. Congratulations! It’s always a pleasure to see more Armenians entering public service and getting elected.
But our work is not done. There is an upcoming runoff special election for California’s 34th Congressional District seat. This includes areas southeast of Glendale where a sizable, though not large, population of Armenians reside. Our participation is important. So look up your address on LA County’s “find my district page” to see if you can vote in this race.
As always, keep vote, vote, voting!