Keghart.org, Editorial 18 March, 2021
At a time when Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey are trying to determine the future of Artsakh and Azeri troops are harassing civilians in southern Armenia, the Yerevan government is in limbo and the traumatized people in the grip of inertia. Meanwhile, a redundant prime minister is amazingly the most popular politician although he is the person most responsible for the calamity of September. Ex-president and major domo of the corrupt oligarchs Robert Kocharyan advocates “full-fledged modern integration between Armenia and Russia” without bothering to explain what “full-fledged” means. Will Armenia become a Russian colony, a military base or a very junior member of the Russian Federation? “Back to the U.S.S.R”? The Great White Hunter has stopped badgering the wildlife of the African savannah and now talks in the following manner: “The world is being regionalized and global processes are replaced by certain regional integration processes.”
Then there are political parties which stick to Armenia’s body politic like carbuncle to a rusty vessel. Some of Armenia’s problems are obviously self-inflicted and the multitude of obstreperous political parties is one such self-wound. One of the ways the National Assembly can be made more efficient and focused is to limit ‘clubs’ which call themselves political parties. Why would a country of three million need seventeen-plus political parties? Some don’t even have seats in parliament because they received less than five percent of the votes. But despite their humiliating showing they loiter year after year dragging down the democratic process. When Armenia became independent, 500 “political parties” registered with the government.
The first post-independence political party was the Armenian National Movement. But soon after, it split up. So did the Communist Party. Splitting-up and changing name has been the pattern in the past three decades as parties and leaders have come and gone at a dizzying pace. Since 1995, there have been about 80 political parties. One of the earliest was Shamiram. Why Shamiram? Because many members were the wives of senior government officials. It’s a mystery as to why an Armenian political party would adopt the name of an Assyrian queen who was obsessed by an Armenian king whose death she had caused.
The names of these parties betray their airy-fairy ideology. What’s the difference between the National Democratic Party, Democratic Way Party, Democratic Party of Armenia, Christian Democratic Party, Democratic Motherland Party, and Armenian Democratic Liberal Party?
There are also parties with absurd names. How many people would vote for parties named Fist of Armenian Bravest Party, Impeachment Alliance, Will and Federation Alliance, Dignified Future Party, Country of Apricot Party, Citizen Decision, Armenian Scientific Industrial and Civic Drive, and Industrialists and Women’s Union?
Some “political parties” received as few as 0.3 percent of the votes. Support for the Communist Party of Armenia dropped from 12.4 percent in 1995 to 0.7 in 2017. Traditional diaspora political parties, which settled in Armenia with great promise and greater hopes, failed to leave their mark on Armenia’s politics. During eight parliamentary elections since independence, ARF’s best showing has been 13.2 percent of the votes (2007). In the latest (2018) elections, it was down to 3.9 percent. The two other diaspora parties (Ramgavars, Hnchags) have had similar dismal numbers. The Republican Party of Kocharyan and Sargsyan which through illegal means received 44.1 percent of the votes in 2012 received 4.7 percent in 2018 in the wake of Pashinyan’s victory.
Why so many parties? Why can’t similarly inclined parties (Communist Party of Armenia, Alliance of Communist and Socialist Parties, Marxist Party of Armenia) find common ground? Why the cacophony of crickets? Why do parties which receive fewer than a thousand votes don’t roll their tents and go home? Is there something in the Armenian culture or character that encourages single-mindedness, self-importance, obstinacy, short-sightedness, bickering, and arrogance?
More than fifty years ago there was a popular theory that propounded there are two kinds of people—type A and type B. Type A people, according to the theory tend to be competitive, ambitious, high-achieving, high-strung, high-status seekers, jealous, can’t work in groups, are immensely individualistic, lack group mentality, lack respect for others, are creative, pioneering, selfish, don’t give credit to others, have a short fuse, and are imbued with free-floating hostility. Type B people are supposedly the opposite.
If the theory of A and B Types is valid, Armenians could be in deep trouble: we demonstrate many of the above characteristics in our political life. Long before the theory had gained currency, in “Cilicia Armenian Rule” by Paguran (1904), the author pointed out how individualism of the elite had accelerated the demise of the Cilicia kingdom. Paguran (the name is a pseudonym) said individualism is so ingrained in the Armenian psyche that it has become a racial characteristic. Throughout our long history, our national unity has also been plagued by the individualism of nakharars. The Cilician royalty indulged in almost as many internecine quarrels as it did against the Turks, Arabs, Mamluks, Crusaders, and Byzantium. Since the Genocide, we have witnessed multiple fissures in our diasporic life. And whenever a proposal is made for a unified body representing the diaspora, someone throws in the monkey wrench.
When we have two dozen political parties with leaders bathed in self regard, how can we have an effective state, army, and civic institutions? If all of us insist at being the top dog at all times how can we lead anyone?
Even if the A and B Type theory were not scientific, the number of political parties in our homeland indicates we have a problem about working in unison. We should take a long look at ourselves and acknowledge that we suffer from the “too many chiefs and a few Indians” phenomenon. If we don’t correct the fatal flaw, Armenia could become a vassal of the Turkbeijan Twins. Right now, we need a coalition government following parliamentary elections: a government with a single agenda… to put the country on the right track. Armenia needs a coalition government that would put aside bickering, petty jealousies, and self-aggrandizement, and devise a National Reconstruction Plan. Let’s bring back the spirit of 1995. Let our politicians park their egos outside the National Assembly. It could be our last chance to have an independent homeland.
“The former regional governor [Vahe Hakobian] of Syunik on Wednesday announced the launch of a new political party in a move which he claimed to be part of an anti-government campaign ‘to oust the current regime.” Tert.am, March 11, 2021.