Re-Independence, an Election, and the U.N.

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

It’s been quite a full Armenian political week.

September 21 was the 27th anniversary of the Republic of Armenia’s re-independence.

September 23 saw the first post-Velvet Revolution election held in the Armenia. It was Yerevan’s municipal election, by all accounts run cleanly, with an 81 percent lopsided victory going to the “My Step” bloc and its mayoral candidate, Hayk Maroutyan.

September 25th marked Primer Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s entrance on the international stage with his speech at the U.N.’s annual opening hoopla that is attended by many, if not almost all, world leaders.

Independence has been written and remarked about at great length, so I’ll focus on the other two items.

My Step’s victory was unsurprising to most, though the scale of it is somewhat surprising. This is the political grouping built around Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. His rapid rise to power on the back of a popular, and populist, movement, coupled with the designed-to-grab-media-attention actions early on (arresting notable abusers of the preceding administrations and getting payment from some tax-cheats) have made him an immense hit with the populace. For the time being, anything he “touches” politically is likely to succeed. So this victory was Pashinyan’s, not Marutyan’s or My Step’s.

This cult of personality seems to pervade voters’ mindsets. Perhaps it’s a leftover from Soviet times. No one can easily forget the looming presence on omnipresent posters of whoever the leader of the day was. That’s much like Erdogan’s Turkey, Hussein’s Iraq, or any other dictator’s domain.

But this can be dangerous. If people are voting for a person, and trusting his good intentions and good will, we can easily have a situation that degenerates into petty tyranny. Even if it’s understandable under current circumstances, it is highly undesirable. We must work closely with Pashinyan to keep him on the right track. It might be instructive for him to think in terms of the 80 percent of parliament that the ARF had during the first republic. One of the prime ministers of that period, Hovhannes Kachaznoonee, who subsequently fell out with and was critical of the ARF, argued in his later writings that such overwhelming control was counterproductive since it produced insufficient challenges to the ARF’s governance, presumably resulting in less refined and perfected policy.

On this front, I already see some cause for concern. Pashinyan declared, before the election, that anyone one who wanted prompt dissolution of the current parliament and the earliest possible snap elections for a new parliament should vote for the My Step slate. But really, who did that? What percentage? No one’s going to poll voters to measure that, after the fact. Plus, it’s clear to everyone that people voted for Pashinyan, regardless of who the actual candidates were. Now he will assert that “the people” gave him a mandate to dissolve parliament immediately. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dissolving parliament now. It probably could have been done with no ill effects even sooner. But the problem here is not the actions, but the process and mindset that are guiding them.

On the external front is Pashinyan’s U.N. speech. I read the text. It seems he delivered it in English, rather than Armenian. Why? Each country representing a nation has this once-a-year opportunity to speak to the world, why would a leader not do it in her/his native tongue. It’s odd. His remarks were on the mark regarding Artsakh and the warped logic of returning it to Azerbaijani control. Yet he made no mention of the Genocide, reparations, or territorial restitution – in this way, he may be following in the footsteps of his some-time mentor, Levon Ter Petrossian. He undercut himself by describing the odd political condition of having a parliament that is overwhelmingly composed of members not of his political grouping. But he did speak well on the topics of rooting out corruption and building a truly democratic state.

So we must be watchful and mindful that we do not miss this, our second, chance at building a real democratic republic and slip into yet another “polite” dictatorship as happened under the first president of the republic.

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6 Comments

  1. State of Emergency said:

    Pashinyan is a Russian directed and controlled opposition figure. He does not and will not say or do anything counter to Russian interests. Not mentioning the Genocide, reparations, or territorial restitution is his way of not offending the current Russo-Turkish rapprochement. By delivering the speech in English only reinforces the total disregard for Armenian nationalistic pride.

  2. barseghian said:

    Ankan hebardem dzer garoudzoragan djicht karakagan karaparagan verloudzoumnerou. CHENOR ierani haiastani karakatsiner tastiragven karakagan hasgetsoroutian te votch ayo soviet jamanagneroun ge veratarnank MI MARTOU ANOUNOV GE HAVADANK IPER PERGITCH. Franseren gesen “culte de la personnalite ” desang ou hasav soviet miioutioun. Mer medavoraganer, dzer neman, tersits, bedke oknen vor cherdjantsenk as hin okepanoutioun POPULISME

  3. Lorenz Yacoubian said:

    Most of your remarks are spot on Garen, especially with regards to Kachaznoonee’s government. Diversity of thought is strength.
    Pashinyan’s UN speech being in English is a non issue. I suppose most of those who speak in their native tongue are unfamiliar with any of the six official languages.

  4. Sarkis Ghazarian said:

    I am looking forward to reading Garen’s explanation for the ARF’s position in the National Assembly on 10/2/18 of voting against Snap elections proposed by the Prime Minister
    Like to see how Garen justifies the ARF standing along side the Republican Party of Armenia in this opposition
    Perhaps the ARF is still smarting from the lack of support from the voters of Yerevan for their party slate of candidates in the Yerevan City Council elections. Perhaps the ARF is afraid that it will face the same fate in Snap Elections & hence lose its current ARF members in the National Assembly

  5. John-Emmanuel Shirajian said:

    Dear Garen,
    Comparing prime minister Pashinyan to Arab and Turkish dictators is an insult to your readers intelligence. This also shows that you are either not familiar with the prime minister or with the above mentioned dictators. As for the personality cult smear you directed against the prime minister and the condescending attitude towards his followers – which is the majority of the people of Armenia and the diaspora- you exhibited lack of understanding of the significant of the popular revolution that took place. Nicole Pashinyan should be compared to Vaclav Havel , the Czech president, not Hussein. The Armenian people who demonstrated for days on the streets everywhere in Armenia should be compared to the Polish masses that endorsed Solidarity. As a liberal, democratic and progressive person you claim to be this was a disappointing article.
    John-Emmanuel Shirajian
    President
    Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA)

  6. barseghian said:

    Ge hichem sovietagan badmoutioune Lenine vor karozov garoretsav hamakhemper entanour JOROVOURTE ir karaparine sourdj. Votch mi hagaragort tch’entounets abahovelou jorovortavaroutioune. Our darav as miiamid havadasial amportsarou jorovourte, gouir miyayn gouzein heradsner TSAR, katsin tebi tejorke, milionavor pandargial, aksoroutioun, spanoutioun … Aio ge vakhenam B. Pashiniani karakagan gaynevadzkin, menag, inknakeloukh, irme vestah, arants leselou, ousoumnasirelou, entounelou, achkharki hezor BEDOUTIOUNEROU badmoutioun, portse, xoroute, midjazgayn nerderorneri BAHANDJ, arants as odar engeroutian (orinag CARREFOUR) socialagan vidjage tchi pokhver, ankordzoutioun, choudov jorovourte g’iratstapve … CHAROUNAG ARTAKART ? VAKH OUNIM, amportsarou intchbes ir nechanagvadz garavaroutian martig, anhentat heradesilin artchev, gadradz, xosel, xosel, xosel ” parole, parole parole ” Oure spiurki masnaktsoutioune, ir partsr portsov, gidoutiounov, hayrenasiroutian ??? Ter menats IRENTS hayrenike, votch hamayn haioutian. Spiurkahay i me gardzik, vor g’abre 28 dari hayrenik

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