Celebrity Diplomacy

The heading of this monologue is the title of a conference that took place at USC’ Institute of Armenian Studies in L.A. on January 29. It was on the internet and I watched it live on my computer. The conference was  organized to discuss “examples of functional and dysfunctional governance and electoral politics of Armenia”.

The participating panelists included, five Armenian celebrity artist, two political scientist, one Human Rights attorney, and four none Armenian political scientists.

The conference started with the none Armenian political scientists discussing the functional and dysfunctional political issues in  Russia,  Eastern Europe,  Republic of Georgia,  South America,  Africa,  and the  Canadian electoral system and its advantages and disadvantages.

All  panelists presented their topics rather well. The most relevant issues pertaining to Armenia’ situation were that of Russia, and specially that of Republic of Georgia, where the electoral system, democratic governance, and the fight against the corruption, had been more successful than in Armenia.

All the five Armenian celebrity artist were from diaspora. They were well connected to Armenia, and they stressed the need for diaspora Armenians to get engaged with civic organisations and business sector in Armenia, and thus be part of the process to fight corruption and help improve the social and economic conditions in Armenia.

They also appealed to the diaspora Armenians to make extra efforts, specially this year, to schedule their visits to Armenia around the coming parliamentary election time, and participate in the election either as accredited observers,  or as voters, if they are on the voter’ list.

The two Armenian political scientists, and the Human Rights attorney, talked mostly about the up coming parliamentary elections in Armenia, and the need for a fair election. The importance of networking between professionals of Armenia and Diaspora was often stressed by all participants.

One of the Armenian panelist, stressed that, so far, the elections has been between personalities and there were hardly any ideological differences. She is absolutely right and there is hardly any in the coming election either.

Anther panelist stressed the importance of the accredited observers and proxies being inside the poling stations from start to the end. He is absolutely right too. Needless to say, this is one of the best way to proof verify the election results. (I have written about this issues in my previous Monologues and see no need to delve in them again).

Over all, it was a well organised, open, honest, and none partisan discourse, about  the Armenia and Diaspora relations, and politics in Armenia. It was heartening to see that, none of the Armenian participants were partisan, or advocated partisan politics.

A congratulation is in order for the organizers, and let us hope that, more such programs are scheduled in the future on specific and current Armenian issues. Let us hope also that, this conference will set a trend for others to follow and organize this kind of open and none partisan discussions, and reach tens of thousands of Armenians all over the world through internet that needless to say has no “borders”. Now let’s get back to reality.

The parliamentary elections in Armenia are just less than two months away. (The official campaign starts on March 5 and ends 24 hours before the voting day that is currently set next April 2). But as per the “norms” the unofficial campaign started a while back.

The incumbent Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), Armenian National Congress (ANC), and Tashnagtsootyoun, (ARF),announced that, they will participate in the election alone without forming any alliances withe other Parties.

It was also reported that, two alliances (Tashink) were formed between small Parties. It looks like next election will be at least a six way contest. Needless to say, all the major Parties participating in the election, are led by leaders who have been in power for a long time and have hardly any thing new to offer.

RPA seems to be the best organised Party and despite the large discontent towards them, they might be able to win the next election either as a minority or majority.

Gagig Dsaroogyan, the founding leader of PAP, has ended his “retirement” from politics and is back to lead his Party again. He is very popular in some regions of Armenia, and might be able to lead PAP to a respectable comeback.

ANC carries too much “old baggage” from their rule of the country during the difficult early years of the new Republic and might not be able to mount a credible campaign and win significant numbers of seats in the new parliament.

ARF participated  in the recent local municipal elections and barely past the 5% threshold. They might be able to do it again and win few seats and hope for a  RPA  win that, like before, will give them couple of ministerial portfolios in return for their silence, about RPA’ corrupt and oligarchic rule of the country.

As for the two new alliances, it is to early to  write about their chances of success. Generally speaking, alliances are not successful “marriages”, and do not last long. Mergers might have better chance to succeed. But for that, maybe next.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian




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