Armenia at the Crossroads

Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia, PA,  28 March 2008
 
A recent study by two political scientists has concluded that in "This decade, the great enemies of democracy are presidents."  Although America was one of the countries studied, this essay will not discuss the threat to its democracy by the Disgrace in the White House who lies with as much ease as he breathes.  This country–which is ranked 41 of the 158 studied!–is probably strong enough to survive even his excesses.

No, we will look at Armenia and see if the study applies.

What they found was that the strength of democracy is related directly to the strength of congresses, legislatures, and parliaments, and that those "countries with strong legislatures are far more likely to have resilient democracies."  Weak legislatures, they found, often cannot keep executives in check, "especially when autocratic leaders come to power."

Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia, PA,  28 March 2008
 
A recent study by two political scientists has concluded that in "This decade, the great enemies of democracy are presidents."  Although America was one of the countries studied, this essay will not discuss the threat to its democracy by the Disgrace in the White House who lies with as much ease as he breathes.  This country–which is ranked 41 of the 158 studied!–is probably strong enough to survive even his excesses.

No, we will look at Armenia and see if the study applies.

What they found was that the strength of democracy is related directly to the strength of congresses, legislatures, and parliaments, and that those "countries with strong legislatures are far more likely to have resilient democracies."  Weak legislatures, they found, often cannot keep executives in check, "especially when autocratic leaders come to power."

 
What prompted the study were the recent events in Kenya where, although the opposition won twice as many legislative seats as the president's party, opposition members took to the streets.  "Why?" the professors asked, and answered, "Because they wanted the only office that has any power in the country: the presidency."
 
Had I said "Armenia" in the foregoing paragraph, and not Kenya, I doubt if anyone would have suspected the difference.  But, to continue.
 
Another aside, first.  In most functioning and resilient democracies, people leave the government and enter the private sector when they decide that they want to accumulate money.  In Armenia, as we all know, it is just the opposite.  People enter the government in order to accumulate wealth.
 
And, it is for this reason that by no stretch of the imagination could Armenia be accused of being a resilient democracy.  The National Assembly is a junior partner in the feeding at the money trough, albeit with their eyes on becoming senior partners.  Thus, when the wannabe kleptocrats fail to win office, they feel that their turn, having come, they have a right to demonstrate their dissatisfaction. 
 
What else did the study show that is relevant to Armenia?  "Countries with stronger parliaments may also be less prone to civil wars. . . ."
 
Thus, Armenia has a farce that calls itself the National Assembly.  Being content to hold office and get its corrupt hands on money that should rightfully be used to raise the prosperity of the country, the members live the lavish lives that distinguishes the few "haves" from the majority "have nots" rather than exercise the power of authority and restraint that is needed to counter the abuse of authority of the president.
 
That a Levon Ter Petrosyan–who set the example of corruption and abuse when in office–chooses to pretend to be a "democrat" has to give a new meaning to the Yiddish word "chutzpah."   Though the Armenian word "ahnerress," comes close.  America's George Washington is revered as president (as opposed to his role as general) not because he was a great president (he wasn't) but because he set the tone for decency, honesty, integrity, and probity–a lesson lost on more recent presidents, but let us not wander down that path!
 
The recent election is over; it is a fact.  Armenia has a new president.  Whether or not it is for the good will depend on what happens next.  If Armenia really wants to put the election behind it and get on with repairing its international reputation, it is time for the National Assembly to use its authority and change what has to be changed, challenge what has to be challenged, and resist what has to be resisted.  "If you have a legislature that's vested with power to stand up to them [the presidents], you can keep democracy on track," the political scientists concluded.
 
That, however, will mean that the members of the National Assembly will think first about the people and the country they were elected to serve and not to serve their own selfish interests. 
 
Does anyone want to take any bets on the choice(s) they will make?
2 comments
  1. Avedis Kevorkian

    Today I came across an obituary in Armenian Weekly titled “Final Farewell for Andrew Kevorkian, Keeper of the Armenian Flame”. Henrik Eger had eulogized his friend.

    Little did I realize at the beginning, until I came to this passage that Andrew was no other than Avedis. The eulogy noted that “Andrew wrote for a number of publications, including The Armenian Reporter and Keghart.com, a non-partisan website devoted to community activities, human rights, and democracy”.

    I enjoyed reading his articles in Keghart.com. He penned a good number of them. He was a devoted Armenian with a sharp pen and did not mince words.

    May he rest in peace.

  2. Avedis (Andrew) Kevorkian

    Avedis was a personal friend.  I met him on the pages of Keghart.

    His niece sent me the sad news a couple of weeks ago.  She then sent me the obituary.  It is strange, what I wrote her personally in sympathy seems to be almost word for word portrayed  in the obituary.  It shows that others perceived him similarly.

    I have had the privilege of meeting him twice in person.  The last time, it was slightly over two years ago in Montreal.  His great niece had arrived from France to study here so it was a perfect opportunity to get together.

    Avedis's late brother was the equally remarkable Jack Kevorkian (not the physician, but the lawyer) who was the personal attorney of none other than William Saroyan.

    Avedis was remarkable in his wit, his memory, his stories, and his dedication to ideas and ideals which he shared so generously with us that last night together at dinner. I shall miss him very dearly, as I shall miss his writings, both public and personal.

    His memories will last with me forever and who knows, one day I may even write about them. I am eternally grateful for his friendship and that of his family.

    Paregamoren

    Viken L. Attarian

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