“Fourth Republic”?

After the nationwide shock caused by the war and the obligatory transition phase, we must undertake the construction of a new state, conventionally called the “Fourth Republic” in this article”.

I fully agree with the above quote that was taken from a lengthy article written by the president of Armenia Armen Sarkissian while he was recuperating from Covid 19 infection in London England on January 11, 2021. Now that the parliamentary election is over, now is the time to “undertake the construction of a new state” and whether we call it “Fourth Republic” or something else like the “Democratic Republic of Armenia” is well warranted. But before talking about any fundamental changes maybe first it will be appropriate to talk about the snap parliamentary election that was held on June 20, 2021. Despite some ugly campaign rhetorics, the election was conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner without any significant irregularities or vote-rigging.

The credit goes to the current government of Armenia who, for the second time in a row, created a level playing field for free, fair, and transparent elections. The credit goes also to the electoral commission that again for the second time in a row organized and delivered a fair, free, and transparent election. And lastly, the credit goes especially to the voters of Armenia who exercised their constitutional rights with dignity and according to their individual choices. THANK YOU ALL

This snap parliamentary election in a way was unique due to the fact that for the first time the current prime minister and all the 3 previous presidents and their parties were running for office and unlike all previous elections, the outcome of his election was not “predetermined” if I may say so.

The big winner was the current prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and his “Civic Contract” party. They won about 54% of the vote and 71 parliamentary seats (one seat short of a 2/3 majority that would have allowed them to make some constitutional changes without resorting to a referendum). It is important to note that the win was countrywide and in all 13 electoral districts including the Sunic region that was considered to be a hostile region against prime minister Nikol Pashinyan. Even some nationalists try to prevent his visit to the region but thankfully without any success.

The other winner was the second president Robert Kocharyan and 2 of his subservient coalition partners under the banner of “Armenia Alliance”. They won about 21% of the votes and 27 parliamentary seats.

The third winner was the third president Serj Sargsyan and his Republican Party in partnership with Artur Vanetsyan and his Homeland Party under the banner “I Have Honor”. They won about 5% of the vote and 7 parliamentary seats.  

Apart from the winners mentioned above, it is worth mentioning that this election was also a contest between the democratic process that started in 2018 by Pashinyan’s so-called “Velvet Revolution” and the old corrupt oligarchy led by Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan who were staging a comeback with “deep pockets” and in control of most of the news and social media outlets in Armenia. Thankfully here too the big winner was the democratic process that started 3 years ago.

This election was also a sort of passing judgment on prime minister Nikol Pashinyan’s handling of the 44-day disastrous war in Artsakh and signing a humiliating ceasefire. Here too, Pashinyan won a resounding  54% vote of confidence. (Needless to say, it was not Pashinyan who started the war, rather, the war was started and imposed on Armenia and Artsakh by Azerbaijan and Turkey with a much bigger, better trained, and better-equipped joint army, that defeated a smaller, unprepared, and badly led Armenian and Artsakh Army).

After the election, Pashinyan speaking at a victory party in Freedom Square advised his supporters and the electorate in general that the campaign is over and it is time to forget the antagonism associated with campaign rhetoric and be less confrontational and more accommodating to each other.

Yes, Pashinyan won a strong 5-year mandate to further carry on his reforms that started 3 years ago. This time around, the mandate includes changing the constitution, reforming the judicial system, and intensifying the fight against corruption. (Even changing the National anthem to reflect the new realities must be on the agenda. Any new anthem should be void of any word of death “մահ” in it. Rather than singing to die for Armenia, we must sing to live for Armenia and help Armenia and its people live and prosper in peace). 

During the next 5 years, Pashinyan and his team, hardened and wiser with their 3 years of governing experience must strive to build a democracy in parts like Canada’s “Peace Order and Good Government”  in parts like USA”s  “Life Liberty and Pursue of Happiness”  and in parts like France’s  “Liberty Equality and Brotherhood” etc. No need to invent the wheel, so to speak, just “customize” the experiences and successes of the above-mentioned countries to Armenia’s realities and culture. It is a challenge. But if Pashinyan’s often used slogan  “Եվ կեցցեն մեր երեխաները, որ ապրելու են Ազատ եւ Երջանիկ Հայաստանում” is of any indication, I think they are on the right track.

Yes, it is a challenge. Especially so if we consider the fact that Armenia and the Armenian people, as a nation, during their entire history, never ever experienced democratic rule. As I said earlier there is also the corrupt oligarchy that is trying to make a comeback, plus there is a sizable number of older people who have been educated and lived under the Soviet system for a long time and for them the democracy is just a word and authoritarian system is the “norm”. Yes, it will be a long, 5 years long, process that needs to be supported by all of us.

Thankfully there is a sizable young and well-educated generation who never lived under Soviet rule and are more in tune with the democratic norms. Pashinyan and his team must strive to engage this young and educated generation in the fight for building a democratic Armenia the “Fourth Republic” and we, all of us should support them.

The best support could come specially from intellectuals, peace proponents, mothers of martyred and missing soldiers etc. It is time to start a public and vocal peace movent  and ignore a small and noisy nationalist warmongering “razmadainch” people with hollow slogans and threatening verbiage.

As for the 2 opposition alliances that represent the old corrupt oligarchs?, it will be prudent for them to move their anti Pashinyan street campaign in the parliament, and as the official opposition, use their earned right to criticize the government, use the parliamentary podium to propose alternative solutions for the improvement of the lives of the people of Armenia and maybe even reach larger audiences they couldn’t reach during street demonstrations. Are they up to the challenge? it does not look like it. As of this writing, they say they have not yet made up their decision whether to accept their mandates or not. It begs the question — why did they run in the first place?. It is time to sober up and face the reality. There is no going back to corrupt oligarchic թալանչի “talanchy” rule. NEVER.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian

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