Parliamentary Elections in Armenia

It was announced that the next parliamentary election in Armenia will be held on April 2, 2017. Although the official campaign starts on March 5, but Armenian news media is full of speculations and the political parties in Armenia are gearing for an active campaign.

This parliamentary election will be the first under the new constitution “passed” with a falsified vote on December 6, 2015. It will be also according to the new electoral code agreed upon by the current administration and the opposition Parties.

Although this election will be according to the new constitution, and new electoral code, but current President Serj Sargsyan  will continue to govern the country as the highest executive officer of the country, with all the powers bestowed on him by the old constitution till April 2018.

After April 2018 the parliament will elect a new Prime Minster that will hold the highest executive office in the country and govern the country according to the new constitution. At that time the parliament will also elect a new President that will have mostly a ceremonial role to play.

This election will be contested by political Parties mostly headed by the same old leadership since early nineteen nineties. They all are soviet educated individuals with “I say you obey” attitude while there is a generation of eighteen to thirty year old who never lived under soviet rule but unfortunately are hardly active in politics and civic activities. This young generation thinks that, all politicians are corrupt and not worthy of their confidence or vote. It is hard to disagree.

Needless to say, every body is talking about the corruption, specially so the leadership of the government starting from the President and the Prime Minster, while neither the government nor the opposition is doing any thing tangible about it. Maybe this ineffective and hypocritical criticism is the  real cause (than the corruption itself) that is keeping this young generation away from active politics and civic engagement at the peril of they getting more of the things they despise most.

Rhetoric aside, all the leaders talk about the importance of the involvement of young generation. They continue preaching to their younger Party members to be active in the Party politics. Unfortunately this Party preaching process is nothing more than indoctrination that leads to subservience and cronyism that perpetuate the reign of old leaders. These young Party members become like trained parrots repeating the same old slogans and become premature “carbon copies” of their leaders and hardly any meaningful generational change occurs in true sense of the word.

This coming election unlike the previous elections has to be fair and transparent, and prove that, after twenty five years of independence, the electoral system of Armenia, (with fairly good checks and balances), is capable of delivering such a fair and transparent election and elect a parliament and a government that could claim genuine legitimacy.

Foreign observers are already getting prepared to monitor this election. There are also Armenian groups in Diaspora(s) talking about sending observers as well. Despite all their well intentions, the caveat is that, this few hundred observers that partially monitor few hundred poling stations, inadvertently legitimize the election by claiming that, despite few irregularities, it does not effect the outcome of the election as a whole.

I have said it before, and let me say it again. The best way to legitimize the coming election will be if ALL the 1997 poling stations were monitored from the start to the end (including the counting of the votes) by accredited proxies of ALL participating Parties. Needless to say this is a requirement by the law.

If the opposition Parties fail to exercise their legal rights and post accredited volunteers in each of the 1997 poling stations, they either should not be participating in the election or at least they will have nobody to blame but themselves for perceived falsifications without presenting tangible proof. This is the norm in every democracy and Armenia is no exception.

The current administration headed by president Serj Sargsyan and his Republican Party seems to be vulnerable. Apart from the general discontent, the four day war in Artsakh that started in April 4, 2016 by Azerbaijan, proved also the vulnerability of the Armenian army and security of border villages. Even the new government headed by prime minster Karen Karapetyan, (reported to be a reformer) might not help. (He has been in power for over three months, but so far, has hardly produced any significant reforms).

But due to the lack of a credible opposition Party, or Parties, it seems, republican Party is the best organised Party that might win this election and continue to govern the country either as a majority, or a minority government. Let us hope that, this time around, it will be a fair,  transparent, and clean election.

Any winner, needs that clean mandate to claim true legitimacy, and with the support and the involvement of the citizens of Armenia, start the process to fight corruption, introduce reforms, and help develop all regions and specially rural areas of the country. It is long overdue.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.

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