“Not Liberal, or Social Democrat”.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the young and assertive spokesperson of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), (who is also the vice president of the Armenian Parliament), at a press conference immediately after the meeting of the RPA Executive Committee, said the following. “The Republican Party is conservative, if you expect it to become Liberal or Social Democrat [I can assure you that] such thing will never happen”. (News.am 03-11-2016).

The ideological orientation of the Political Parties in Armenia is hardly distinguishable. RPA has been in power for most of the past fifteen years and has a good track record to back up its claim of being a conservative Party. (In their last budget they hardly made any improvements to the social programs including the pension, and the minimum wage). Is there a “left-leaning” Political Party or Party(s) to counterbalance the “right-wing” RPA  administration?.

A quick Google search indicates that there is no shortage of Political Parties perceived to be  Liberal, Socialist, Democratic, etc. Here is a partial list under the heading of “Ideology”. Conservative 6 – Liberal 6 – Social Democrat 2 – Socialist 3 – communist 3… Some of these Parties have “Nationalists” attached to their names. There are also 2  Parties listed as just Nationalist, and 1 as Ultra Nationalist.

With this many socially progressive “left-leaning” Political parties, you expect the news media in Armenia to be full of discussions/criticism of specific social issues like poverty, healthcare, education, equal opportunity, minimum wage, pension, environment, etc. But it is hardly the case. None of the above-mentioned Parties seems to be actively pursuing policies worthy of their perceived ideology.

I must admit that I am just a casual follower of the events in Armenia through the internet. I am not subscribed to any Armenian newspaper either in print, or online, but I am “privileged” to receive almost all the Diaspora Armenian newspapers via email. (This day it seems it is the “norm” that, everyone who could get your email address includes you on their email mailing list). Judging merely from the content of these Diaspora online news media, it seems the above-mentioned specific social issues are hardly a priority for them as well. Just generalities and “lip service” if I may say so.

For Armenia to become a true “normal” democracy it needs at least one well organized Armenian progressive “left-leaning” Party to articulate, and actively pursue progressive social policies with words and deeds Բանիւ եւ գործով to help improve the living conditions of the PEOPLE of Armenia.

Needless to say, the opposition not only must hold the RPA accountable, but also be a serious contender to replace it, and thus give the people of Armenia hope for change. Unfortunately judging from the activities and even the rhetoric of the opposition Party(s), especially the ones with representation in the Parliament, there seem to be hardly any encouraging signs.

-RPA Հանրապետական who has a majority of 69 members in the 131 member National Assembly (Parliament) is listed and perceived to be “National Conservative”.

-Prosperous Armenia Բադգավաճ Հայաստան listed as “Liberal Conservative”?!! with 37 Members of Parliament (MP). In reality, this Party is like a rich men’ club, and the “carbon copy” of RPA and as conservative as RPA.

Armenian National Congress Հայ Ազգային Կոնգրես listed and perceived to be “Classical Liberal” has 7 MPs. This is the party established by the first President of the Republic of Armenia Levon Ter Petrosyan, which lost its credibility after Ter Petrosyan resigned/was pushed from office in 1998.

Heritage Party Ժառանգութիւն listed and perceived to be “Liberal” has 5 MPs. This Party was established by the USA born Raffi Hovanissian who challenged current president Serj Sargsyan in the 2008 presidential election with an impressive campaign and received about 39% of the official votes and thus earned the right to be the official opposition but instead of capitalizing on that success, he wasted his energies to unite the opposition and failed miserably. Despite his personal high regard for the citizens of Armenia, his Party does not seem to be in a position to repeat the success it had during the 2008 presidential elections.

ARF Դաշնակցութիւն listed and perceived to be “Socialist” and “Left-Wing Nationalist” has also 5 MPs. ARF has been a socialist party by words only but never in practice. They pride themselves on being a member of an organization called Socialist International which is no more than a symbolic and anachronistic bureaucratic institution.

Judging from the rhetorics of some of the leadership and the membership of ARF I will venture to say that, they are more “right-wing” Nationalist than “Left-Wing” Nationalists. (During the past over fifteen years, ARF has been an avid supporter of the plutocratic, right-wing, administrations of both President Robert Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan).

Maybe it will not be realistic to expect a left-leaning or even centralist but socially progressive Party to emerge from this group. The conservative RPA, despite its mishandling of the early April Azerbaijani aggressive attacks on Artsakh that hurt their credibility, (See the monologue dated April 17 titled With “friends” like this, do we need enemies?), it seems it is still the best-organized Party to win the next parliamentary elections in April 2017 and continue their plutocratic administration without any credible opposition to hold them accountable. I hope I am wrong.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian

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