If I was an intellectual

On January 16 News.am reported that the President of Armenia during a meeting with some Armenian intellectuals said the following

“President Serzh Sargsyan once again underlined the role and the mission of the intellectuals in the life of the country and offered to have an open and sincere discussion about Armenia and its future, particularly, under the light of the new governance system as a result of the Constitutional changes. Serzh Sargsyan expected to hear the positions, suggestions, as well as concerns, and assessments of the intellectuals on the reality in the country.

The participants of the meeting highlighted such meetings and discussions, talked about their visions of Armenia’s future, issues of public concern, including education of the youth, the huge role of the state to educate good citizens, preservation of the purity of the Armenian language and a number of other issues”. A tall order indeed.

Dear Mr. President, although I am not an intellectual but since you “offered to have an open and sincere discussion about Armenia and its future, I couldn’t resist the temptation to make very few humble suggestions/concerns/assessments of my own. Excuse my unsolicited intrusion. As they say in Armenia Ցաւդ տանեմ ախպէր ճան հայ ենք.

Mr. President, first let me say that you have excellent speechwriters and on many occasions had delivered excellent speeches about many of the issues you discussed with the intellectuals and delivered them rather very … authoritatively!. Even I have written Monologues about some of them. But it is said that “actions speak louder than words” or in Armenian  Խօսքը առանց գործի մեռեալ տարր է.

Let me say also that, currently you are the most powerful politician in Armenia and have been so for at least the past ten years. Due to the lack of a credible Opposition Political Party, you will continue to remain so for a long time to come and can act (or choose not to act) on the issues you raised at the meeting. I hope this time around you will act.

Mr. President let me start with the new constitution. With your initiative and the “blessing”, we have a new constitution that was “passed” by a very controversial referendum vote that makes its legitimacy questionable. But it is the law of the land and every citizen has to live by it until it is changed legally, and with democratic means.

One of the changes could be to amend the constitution (or the electoral laws) to replace the law that allows the appointment of the regional governors (Մարզպետ) By the with a law that will empower the citizens of the country to elect the governors as their representatives.

The other laws that need to be changed are to let the citizens of the country elect their Members of the Parliament (MP) as their representatives who live in their electoral district, rather than being “appointed” by the un-elected Party “bosses” from Yerevan, and obey them as their “remote-controlled robots”.

Let me add here that with these new electoral laws in a way you have “resurrected” the old Soviet-style Party hegemony ” Կուսակցատիրություն” (as if we did not have enough of it), at the expense of Democracy. Ժողովրդավառություն.

The next issue although not mentioned at the meeting is the “fight against the corruption”  that is being repeated like a meaningless mantra by everyone (including you Mr. President) and hardly anything is done about it.

A humble first step could be to pass a law that will ban… tipping in Armenia. This might sound like a not-too-logical suggestion, but I am serious. There are few countries in the world where it is the law and has been so for a long time and they “wear” it like a badge of honor so to speak. I have witnessed it in South Korea starting from the airport to the check-in to my hotel room and then everywhere in the country.

This simple change will raise the dignity of the workers who depend on tipping rather than “handouts” to make a living wage. Needless to say, you have to pass also law to raise the wages of the workers of the industries that are directly affected by this law. It is the users of these services that will pay for it and they could afford it. It is a fair deal and serves as an excellent “role model” to change the culture of bribe “փափախ” in Armenia.

One more thing Mr. President before I end my intrusion into the domain of the intellectuals. Please pass progressive tax laws that will benefit the poor and the middle class, yes at the expense of the rich who can afford it. It is a just, fair, and honorable thing to do.

Mr. President, you and the people living in the Republic of Armenia are the “real” guardians of the Fatherland Հայրենիք. In fact, PEOPLE are Armenia. Their freedom and socioeconomic well-being is the biggest security of Armenia, and the biggest barrier to out-migration as well.

Mr. President, I already passed myself impose a limit on the length of the Monologues that I occasionally write. Let me finish by wishing you good health and energy to work hard and leave a legacy of the longest-serving Armenian Political leader who substantially reduced the corruption, narrowed the gap between the rich and the poor, and reversed the trend of out-migration. It cannot get any better.


Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian


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