Party Convention or Coronation?

Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) had its sixteenth Party convention on November 26. It was attended by about 1800 delegates and 200 invited guests. Among the invitees were representatives of about 10 minor political Party(s) that have no representation in the National Assembly (Parliament), but there were no representatives of the Party(s) represented in the Parliament other than ARF Դաշնակցութիւն, a junior partner in the  RPA led government. It was an impressive “show” for a small country with a population of about three million people.

There were hardly any policy discussions by the delegates. (At least not much was reported through the online news media). It was rather like a public relations “show” to reelect/crown President Serj Sargsyan as the new Chairman of RPA, and also to elect a 21-member Executive Board that included the Prime Minister and most of the cabinet members. Needless to say, there were no opposing candidates, and the elections were passed with unanimous votes. A Coronation par excellence.

President Sargsyan as the “outgoing” Chairman of the RPA gave a lengthy “farewell” speech at the beginning of the convention highlighting the accomplishments and the shortcomings of the RPA. After he was “reelected/crowned” as the new Chairman of the RPA, he gave rather a shorter forward-looking acceptance speech. It is hard not to characterize the convention as a well-choreographed “one-man-show”.

The speeches were very well prepared and delivered in an assertive style. It covered almost every aspect of political life in Armenia. It included many credible and practical ideas to help improve the political, economic, and cultural life, in Armenia. At the end of his acceptance speech, President instructed the delegates to be “Optimistic about Armenia’s and our people’s future”. Good advice indeed. (For full text see their press release dated 26-11-2016).

It was good news to hear the President say that, women make up 54% of the membership of the RPA, and the younger generation of 18 to 40 years old, make up 35% of the Party membership. Very impressive numbers indeed. Needless to say, that leaves only 11% of the “old-timers” who unfortunately are continuing to exercise absolute power on all branches of the government and the Party institutions.

Since 2008 Sargsyan has been the President of Armenia and chairman of RPA and the most powerful political figure in Armenia. He has a good track record as an authoritative ruler and as such, he could have matched his words with deeds by including more women and young generation members in the cabinets that he appointed. Even the new 18-member cabinet that he appointed in September 2016 has only two women. The same could be said also for the newly elected 21-member executive board of RPA that has only three women, including the 2 cabinet members.

In order for Armenia to further progress toward a fairer and just society, it cannot afford to marginalize the role of the women (about half of its population) in the political decision-making processes. It is time for RPA’s leadership to lead the way, match their words with deeds, and include women in the high-ranking decision-making process in accordance with their 54%  membership numbers. It will not happen unless women who are members of RPA, make it happen. It is their right and rights are never granted, it is either earned or inherited. In this case, it has to be earned. They have to fight for it. I hope they do.

Referring to the importance of the citizens obeying the rules and the laws of the country President stated, “It is inexcusable when the boundaries of the rights and laws are violated by those who have created these boundaries”. Here too he could have matched his words with deeds by enforcing the laws enacted by the Parliament. Needless to say, it is hardly been the case in his administration, especially so, for the Justice System.

It is no different in the business sector either. Here too, President and his administration could have tried to eliminate the illegal business monopolies and created a better level playing field for the small and medium-sized businesses to compete and flourish, thus narrowing the widening gap between the rich and the poor as well. Let us hope that, this time around, the President will follow his own advice and match his words with deeds. Never too late. As the saying goes Ուշ լինի նուշ լինի.

Referring to the upcoming parliamentary and Yerevan city council elections in April 2017 President also said “At the moment our main task is to organize and conduct in spring of 2017 impeccable elections, we need that vote of trust”. They sure do. Will they?. (With no credible opposition to challenge them, they have not much to lose. Especially so, with the new 100% single list proportional electoral system that unfortunately is in favor of the Party hegemony Կուսակցատիրութիւն at the expense of representative democracy Ժողովրդավառութիւն, as if we did not have enough Party hegemony during the over seventy years of Soviet rule).

As a perpetual optimist, especially so, “about Armenia’s and our people’s future”, I hope a credible opposition Party, or Paty(s), will emerge during the upcoming elections not only to hold the RPA accountable for their words and deeds, (and thus help improve the emerging democratization process), but also, and especially, to highlight and bring to President’ attention the socioeconomic inequality within the PEOPLE of Armenia, and force/embarrass him to act and narrow the gap. Yes it could be done, it is a must, and there are no other alternatives.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian


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