BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Revolutions don’t need elections, except to consolidate and legitimize what they’ve already achieved. Once elections are being held, or even discussed, a de-revolutionizing process has already commenced.
In light of this, being questioned as to whether I’m “with or against” the revolution (referring to developments in our homeland since April) is trite and annoying but it is happening, and that seems to be because I dare address some potential pitfalls. Questioning my support for revolution is laughable, given my membership in the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and my very public history of positions taken and ideas espoused. It is especially comical when it is done from a place of assessing my support for, and agreement with, Armenia’s current leader who seems to have drunk the neo-liberal Kool-aid when it comes to economic policy. But that’s a topic for another time.
The current challenge the Republic of Armenia faces is transitioning from a kleptocratic system foisted on it as a result of the ridiculous prescriptions western “advisors” (the same neo-liberal types mentioned above) rushed to write for the countries emerging from the collapsed Soviet Union and its satellites. This abomination saw the obscene enrichment of the few and immiseration of the many, leading to the uprising of Spring, 2018.
The leaders, principally Pashinyan, of the uprising tapped into a deep font of dissatisfaction, but it was no “revolution” with all that the word connotes – years of organizing, preparation, and a guiding ideology. What started out as a tiny group of people swelled into a real popular movement that swept away the first, outermost, layer of a system built on the rot of corruption.
Naturally, that corruption was the first target of the new regime. Very public actions were taken. This built confidence and allowed the new regime time to consolidate its new-found power. The next step taken was also very clever and aptly timed – the pursuit of the culprits of March 1, 2008. This further solidified support for the regime. But none of this could be permanent without an election to bring into office, formally, the people who led the movement in the streets.
The first step was electing a new city council and mayor for Yerevan. In this case I think the new regime did better than it initially imagined. The election was belatedly and artificially labeled a “referendum” and when the new regime’s candidates garnered 81% of the vote, its leadership realized the time was ripe to strike.
Despite some agreement/arrangement/understanding among the parties in parliament (back when Pashinyan was first elected Prime Minister) that snap parliamentary elections would be called in May or June of 2019, the new regime wanted to consolidate and legitimize itself through an election immediately while its support was at its peak. This is where the heavy-handedness and public relations tone-deafness of the other three parliamentary caucuses (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Prosperous Armenia party, Republican Party of Armenia) manifested itself. Concerned that the new regime would marshal its supporters into the streets and prevent parliament from convening, they passed legislation (as yet unsigned by the president) on October 2nd to circumvent such a possibility. Yet, instead of getting out front and explaining what they were doing and why, they tried to do it stealthily and ended up further empowering the new regime.
All hell brook loose, or so it seemed. But analyst/commentator Tatoul Hagopian/Tatul Hakobyan explained it well when he said in a recent interview that “manipulation” (of public opinion) is what defines politics. He attributed that behavior to both sides of this kerfuffle, and contended, rightly, that all this should be taken in stride. Indeed, what seemed like an explosive situation when the October 2nd legislation passed has already settled down with one party, PAP, already agreeing with Pashinyan to hold snap elections in December. Sixteen members of the RPA have also stated they support early election. The ARF has said that it, too, supports snap elections as long as certain conditions – reforms to the country’s election laws – are met.
So the whole crescendo of people being labeled anti-revolutionary over a relatively minor political conflict was ridiculous. The descent to the streets and takeover of parliament’s grounds may have re-energized Pashinyan’s activists, but unfortunately, it also opened the doors to attacks on the Republic of Armenia from other quarters.
A retired American diplomat turned lobbyist, Joseph Adam Ereli, penned an article titled “Anarchy in Armenia” for the Washington Times. While this is not the most reliable of news sources, it still has significant reach. Arming people such as Ereli with opportunities to attack Yerevan does Armenians a disservice. It’s not clear to me why he did so. He has an association with Mercury/Clark & Weinstock, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm, which was hired earlier this year by both the Turkish Embassy and Turkey-U.S. Business Council. Yet the type of attack contained in the article reeks more of Azerbaijan’s style. On the other hand, it might even have been done at the behest of Robert Kocharian, similar to the case documented by Ara Khachatourian in “Kocharian Hires Western Lobbyist Who Worked for Azeri Interests” a few weeks ago.
If we want improvements to continue to our quarter-century-old third republic’s political, and consequently economic and social life, we had better stop fetishizing events and idolizing people and stick to the hard work of making up for the missed opportunities and abuses of the last 27 years while saving and expanding the few bright lights that shone through that period of relative darkness.