Party hegemony? Կուսակցատիրութիւն?

Last week there were speculations about whether the new prime minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan and two of his cabinet members that are not members of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), will join the Party. The Prime minister and another cabinet minister said they have not made their decisions as yet.

The Minister of Defense Vigen Sargsyan at a press conference answering a question in this regard said “Considering the constitutional amendments that were made in Armenia, I believe non-partisan activities shall be impossible from now on”…I will petition in the coming days to become a member of RPA”. ( 16-11 -2016).

The next day the RPA spokesperson and the vice president of the Armenian Parliament, Eduard Sharmazanov at another press conference, further articulated the same issue by saying, “The non-partisan politicians actually have no future in the Republic of Armenia”. ( 17-11-2016).

Usually  “partisan politics” is meant to be “bad” politics. I do not know the specifics of the Constitution of Armenia, but judging from these statements I am assuming that, according to the amended constitution, in order to become a member of the cabinet or high government official, you have to be a Party member. (I hope that is not the case for appointments of the Judiciary which currently is claimed to be already heavily influenced by the governing Party, the RPA).

The constitutional amendments in Armenia were one of the main reasons that prompted me to start writing these “Monologues” almost a year ago. Then I wrote about the flawed process of the amendments without hardly any public hearings, and about its “approval” by a rigged referendum. Maybe that must have been the reason why these statements triggered a reaction in me to write this “Monologue” otherwise, I would have characterized it as “what else is new”.

Needless to say, partisan politics is nothing new worldwide. It has been and still is part of the democratic process and as I said earlier usually it has a negative aspect to it. Till the establishment of the Republic of Armenia in 1991, we Armenians, as a nation, have never been governed by a democratic government. The short-lived First Republic of Armenia from 1918 to 1920, was under the Party Hegemony of the ARF Դաշնակցութիւն, in a multi-party system, and from 1920 till 1991 Soviet Armenia was under the hegemony of the Communist Party, a single Party dictatorship.

Like many other 15 Soviet Republics under the hegemony of the Soviet Union, the changes from 71 years of the soviet rule to a free and democratic state have been understandably slow. During the past twenty-five years, the progress in Armenia from a chaotic and lawless start created by the collapse of the Soviet Union, to constitutional democracy has been challenging to say the least.

I will venture to say that, the Republic of Armenia with all its flaws and with a plutocratic government, never has been as democratic as is today, be it perceived, or otherwise. Needless to say, there is plenty of room for improvements, and the most important one of them, if not the most important one, is to become a democracy based on the people’s free choice and free participation in the electoral process for the benefit of the social well being of the PEOPLE, the citizens, who live in the Republic of Armenia.

World history is full of Party Hegemony Կուսակցատիրութիւն that has been nothing more than brutal dictatorships to benefit the Party leadership and its membership at the expense of the people’s freedom of choice, and the social well being. Are the statements made by Sharmazanov and Sargsyan, as I quoted them earlier, the beginning of such a possibility?.

Another “natural” caveat is that the longer a Party government is in power, even in the best democratic states, the better the chance of some of the leaders becoming arrogant, and acting as if they are infallible. Is the RPA leadership starting to fall into that “trap”?. Will an administration change through an electoral “shock therapy” be good for the country?.

Fortunately, the next parliamentary elections in April of 2017 are just months away. According to some reports, the new election laws are more “rig proof”, and more transparent, and the laws to punish the violators are more severe. Will the opposition with the help of these new laws,  be able to mount a credible campaign to win the election or at least deny the RPA a majority in the Parliament?.

It might sound as if I am prejudiced against the RPA. I am not. In fact since the appointment of the new prime minister, Karen Karapetyan (a technocrat, and not a politician), in mid-September, he seems to be more like a reformer, and his policies focus on important issues like the elimination of the corruption and the business monopolies, seems to be a good start to “create an even and competitive level playing field” as he stated during an interview with Bloomberg News. ( 21-11-2016).

Despite these positive policies, I still think the electoral “shock therapy”, at least a minority government, even one headed by RPA, will be good to help restore the confidence, and hope, in the people of Armenia that, regime change through the electoral system is the best possible option, if not the only option to succeed in Armenia.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.


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