Thursday, February 1, 2007


First of all, I would like the readers to rest assured that I’m not running for any position. I wanted to make this ‘disclaimer’ since it seems that around the time of elections – be those in political parties, professional groups or in a country – whenever someone starts saying anything, people would always associate what is being said as a campaign statement and promise and hence stop listening. Of course in most Armenian settings the candidates would seldom claim that they’re running for a post, perhaps thinking that admitting to be a candidate would be demeaning, in which case my ‘disclaimer’ would not have its intended goal.

In a statement from the president of the country (nominal or real president I’m not sure), the date of the next parliamentary elections is set to be on May 12. It seems that the announcement of the date has no consequence on anyone. Some ‘parties’ have already been ‘partying’ their projected win, while the sides which should be the most concerned with the elections – namely the citizens of Armenia – don’t seem to care much about who will be power.

I believe it was Napoleon Bonaparte who – responding to people criticizing him for setting up a monarchy less than two decades after the people of France ousted the previous monarchy – said ‘As long as the people have bread to eat and they are safe at their homes, they don’t care what form of government rules over their head.’ Since I’m not as smart or powerful as napoleon, I figured out I could borrow his statement and apply it in the case of Armenia by saying ‘As long as people have cell phones and cars, while others are barely able to get food on their tables, they don’t care who governs them becuase they are busy sending text messages to each other or struggling to make a living.’

The 2007 parliamentary elections seem to be important for political circles in Armenia since it is viewed as a litmus test of the presidential elections to take place in 2008. All the parties and individuals, who have been campaigning, seem to have their eyes set on the presidency either for themselves or for someone that they will eventually have to support. This is a perfect case to amplify the degree to which Armenians don’t like to work in phases and establish political presence gradually; rather they like to grab the whole thing from the top.

This opinion of mine was reinforced when, several months ago, I had two separate conversations with two political figures active in Armenia’s politics and both were adamant about making a change by becoming presidents. When I asked them whether it might be a better idea to work from bottom up and develop strong constituencies around Armenia by going and listening to the needs and concerns of the citizens, the response that I got was basically a manifestation of the Armenian male psyche that ‘change could only happen from above.’

While in any normal country, elections are a tool for citizens to express their views by choosing the candidates which they think represents them the best, in Armenia that is not the case. Come to think of it, there are so many countries like Armenia where elections are used to validate whatever selection the politicians have already made, that ‘normal’ has changed its meaning.

Elections in Armenia give the illusion of a choice when in reality what citizens are doing is expressing the choice that people in control want them to show. And what makes this whole ‘game’ enjoyable is the fact that most often than not, the political party which seems to be the front runner usually appears less than a year before the elections and miraculously manages to become ‘popular’ almost overnight. The current front runner in Armenia’s parliamentary elections is a party which appeared about a year ago and as I was walking in the streets of Yerevan kept seeing its offices springing up – just like Starbucks cafés in the West – at different parts of town.

One thing that needs to be commended about the new front-running party is that its founder and leader is a businessman who was an Olympic wrestler. If I were able to vote, O would have given (or sold) my vote to his party because I’m quiet sure that nobody is better equipped to ‘tackle’ Armenia’s problems than a wrestler who has a lot of experience tackling (people or issues makes no difference).

Regardless of what happens in the elections or until then, the best thing that citizens of Armenia can do is to see which party has more to offer. And what is meant by ‘more’ is the amount of bribe rather than promises (unless they are promises of bribe), because at the end of the day the people are tired of being viewed as gullible fools when most of the candidates out there to govern them use all the muscles in their body except the ones in their skull to run the country and the society.

More about elections as things heat up!