Election prospects in Armenia
May 25th will mark a watershed in Armenia's political life, as the elections of the National Assembly (Parliament) will take place on that date. Calm has not been restored in the country since the Presidential election last March. It is very convenient for the opposition to continue fomenting agitation to put the government on the defensive, or even better, forcing it to resort to law enforcement measures, which can be easily translated as "repressive" or "dictatorial".
Amateur and immature politicians in the ranks of the opposition cannot manage this state of affairs. There must be some master manipulators behind the scene to keep the unrest and agitation brewing to be able to tear apart Armenia's political and social fabric.
Accusations abound about repressive measures that the authorities have been resorting to. To determine the degree of the freedom of speech, it suffices to read Armenia's press, especially the yellow press, that threshes day in and day out accusations and character assassination statements. Unfortunately, there is boundless freedom that the media is at a loss to manage.
That media trash also ends up in some Diaspora outlets as well.
There is certainly discontent in the country and there are people genuinely concerned about the situation. But one seldom comes across leaders who articulate those concerns, which will be drowned under the manipulations of professional troublemakers.
This is exactly the right atmosphere that justifies the reproachful letter that President Bush sent to Armenia instead of his congratulatory message on President Kocharian's reelection.
In a way, the National Assembly elections are the extensions of the Presidential election of last March. The opposition leaders, who could not unseat Kocharian, will seek larger power sharing position in the legislative assembly. That, of course, could help to harmonize the relations of the executive and legislative, only if the opposition manages to use that power to exert checks and balances. Otherwise, the street fights that have become daily occurrences in the political landscape, will move into the parliament to create gridlock or complete breakdown of the government.
During the Presidential election Mr. Kocharian enjoyed the support of the Republican Party, the ARF (Dashnak), ADL (Ramkavar) and Orinatz Yerkir ("Land of Laws"), which led many to conclude that these groups could end up forming a coalition. But the inflated ambitions of the leadership of these groups fragmented the block. Today, the Republican Party, led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, is running separately on its own agenda, while ARF has its own list and platform, led by Vahan Hovhannissian. The competition of these two has already marginalized their erstwhile ally, the "Orinatz Yerkir", led by Arthur Baghdassarian.
This setup, in a way, isolates the ADL (Ramkavar) party of Armenia led by Ruben Mirzakhanian.
The opposition has rallied around Stepan Demirchian in the Justice bloc. The competition between the ARF and the Republican Party may also enhance the chances of the opposition.
Recent polls have demonstrated a strong showing for the ADL Armenia, because the party has been reinvigorated under the brilliant leadership of Mirzakhanian, expending almost 200 chapters around the country.
The party has made significant enough strides to be adopted by one of the major business leaders of Armenia, the Abrahamian family. Brothers Ara and Gagik Abrahamian have come up with supportive statements to the ADL. Gagik Abrahamian has joined the ADL list in his election bid.
During a recent press conference, responding to the question of a reporter as to why he had decided to join the ADL list, Gagik Abrahamian responded, "What other party could you think of? The principles of the ADL and their e
conomic policies are in tune with my ideas. We are business leaders operating in a world forum". On a different occasion Ara Abrahamian, headquartered in Moscow, has stated that ADL has an honorable history and its name has never been tarnished in Armenia's scandals.
Indeed, when Armenia attained independence, some political parties rushed there with their slogans while ADL encouraged its business leaders and manufacturers to support the country's economy through new enterprises. At that confusing period the business climate was not conducive to such ventures, but as the conditions improve, chances are those prospects may materialize in the near future.
Besides ADL's advocacy for free market economy and its past business dealings the party has an impeccable record in promoting democracy and freedom of speech, even during chaotic periods in Diaspora Armenian life.
In ADL ascendance to the legislative body, Armenia's political life will benefit in the promotion of market economy and regulating the entire economic system, while keeping under check the ARF's tendencies to monopolize the country's leadership.
Those in the Diaspora who really care to see democracy flourish in Armenia have reason to rejoice in ADL's successful prospects.
April 22, 2003