Opportunism Seemingly Pays Off

 Editorial, 15 March 2016

For seventy years the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) had as one of the main pillars of its policies opposition to the Soviet Union and the Soviet regime in Armenia. The rousing “Armenia befits Tashnagtsoutune” (Lepo Lele…Lepo Lele… Kachutyunuh… HayoutyunuhHayasdanuh Tashnagtsoutyan guh vayleh) song was for decades a sure-fire hit at party celebrations. Thus when Armenia became independent the ARF rushed to Armenia to claim its place in the political arena there. Citizens of Armenia, who had chaffed under the Soviet rule and some had admired from afar the ARF’s unflinching opposition to the Soviets, welcomed the party–an organization which was also the strongest political entity in the Diaspora. But since its return to Armenia the party has had a chequered history there. It has also disappointed some Diaspora party members who had expected a more robust support from the citizens and politicians of the homeland.

 Editorial, 15 March 2016

For seventy years the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) had as one of the main pillars of its policies opposition to the Soviet Union and the Soviet regime in Armenia. The rousing “Armenia befits Tashnagtsoutune” (Lepo Lele…Lepo Lele… Kachutyunuh… HayoutyunuhHayasdanuh Tashnagtsoutyan guh vayleh) song was for decades a sure-fire hit at party celebrations. Thus when Armenia became independent the ARF rushed to Armenia to claim its place in the political arena there. Citizens of Armenia, who had chaffed under the Soviet rule and some had admired from afar the ARF’s unflinching opposition to the Soviets, welcomed the party–an organization which was also the strongest political entity in the Diaspora. But since its return to Armenia the party has had a chequered history there. It has also disappointed some Diaspora party members who had expected a more robust support from the citizens and politicians of the homeland.

Not only the ARF failed to become a leading party in the Third Republic, but it was even banned for a spell (1994) by the country’s first president. And for good measure, President Levon Ter-Petrosyan jailed several of the party’s leaders. The second president, Robert Kocharyan, restored (1998) ARF’s legitimacy with some aplomb. The third president, Serzh Sargsyan, also clashed with the ARF mostly because of the latter’s opposition to the notorious Protocols which were foisted upon Armenia and Turkey by Washington. The ARF eventually pulled out of the Sargsyan coalition (2009) to protest the government’s rapprochement with Genocide-denying Ankara. Although he continued to support the Protocols, Sargsyan eventually shelved them because the Turkish parliament had nixed the US-initiated plan.

Several years ago, pretending that it believed Sargsyan had buried the Protocols for good, the ARF in Armenia began to develop ties with the Sargsyan government. Although it refused to join the coalition, for all intents and purposes the ARF supported the government on most issues. Sargsyan showed his appreciation by appointing several ARF personalities to senior diplomatic posts. Last October the party also supported the Sargsyan plan to change the constitution from a presidential to parliamentary system. To firm up the unsaid alliance with Sargsyan, last month the ARF cut a power-sharing deal with Sargsyan’s Republican Party. ARF leader Armen Rustamyan described the agreement as “a long-term vision on cooperation” between the two parties.

In announcing the party’s alliance with Sargsyan, Rustamyan said the development would improve the state of affairs in the country. “In this situation, we can see that the authorities are discredited, but their being discredited is a problem for all of us, isn’t it? We are looking to change the quality, approach and policies of the government and to charge this situation in the country,” said the ARF spokesman. A tall order indeed for a party that holds a measly 5 seats in the 131-member National Assembly.

As a pre-emptive move against the critics of the alliance, Rustamyan acknowledged that the move would be unpopular among a significant segment of the electorate. “Naturally being part of the government automatically means losing your approval ratings,” he said. And sounding like Cassandra, he mysteriously intoned: “But it’s better for us to pay this price than for the whole nation to lose the state.” He added that the ARF was going to pay the price [of unpopularity] but as a result of the entente “we are also going to have a much better Armenia.” He didn’t explain how his tiny party’s cooperation with Sargsyan would result in a much better Armenia.

Soon after Rustamyan’s announcement came the news (surprise, surprise!) that three ARF members (Levon Mkrtchyan, Davit Lokyan, and Artsvik Minasyan), who had respectively served as ministers of education, territorial administration, and economy in the ‘90s and the early 2000s) would return to their former positions. Two governorships (Shirak and Ashotyan) were also slated for ARF representatives. It was obvious that the party was being rewarded for cooperating with Sargsyan. But what shocked observers was the return of the discredited Mkrtchyan and Lokyan to power. It’s a mystery why the ARF would back the two corrupt and reviled politicians. Is the party that thin on the ground? Why the ‘business as usual’ cynical stance from a party which had just announced that its presence in the government would improve the life of Armenia citizens and ensure the Sargsyan government duly implements the new constitution?

The ARF has never managed to obtain more than 13.14% (2007) of the votes in any Armenia election. With fewer than 4% of the seats in the current National Assembly it’s not a player. So why does Sargsyan bother with the party? Is ARF Armenia being admitted to the halls of power because Sargsyan is indirectly courting the Diaspora ARF–the most effective Armenian organization in the Diaspora and the spearhead of the opposition to Sargsyan’s misguided Protocols?

Foxy Sargsyan might have even a more devious plan: Knowing that relations between the Diaspora ARF and ARF Armenia leave room for improvement, he could have embraced Armenia ARF as a ploy to decrease the power of the party’s Diaspora wing. So if next time the Diaspora ARF opposes his policies an accommodating ARF Armenia would deflate Diaspora ARF’s clout by siding with Sargsyan? A case of divide and conquer?

Sargsyan is playing ARF Armenia like a virtuoso pianist tinkling the ivories. Meanwhile, the opportunistic leaders of ARF Armenia are happy to benefit from the Sargsyan largess, damn integrity, not to mention ideology. For the right price, “socialist” ARF Armenia leaders are happy to slide into bed with the jungle capitalists and treacherous oligarchs who are plundering the homeland of the Armenians.

 

12 comments
  1. Voices Will be Heard

    The recent referendum was stolen. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) knows this. Yet they join with the thieves, ostensibly to make them honest?! Those in the Diaspora who still care, swallow this. What else can they do? If they are ARF members, they would be kicked out [if they complain]. If they are not ARF members, they might complain, but complain to whom? Who is the higher authority to complain to? The people of Armenia of course.

    The people of Armenia…their referendum was stolen, and they did not rise. They are crushed. They seem to be content with swallowing the situation while figuring out how to join the Diaspora, where their voices will be heard, except not on Armenian issues and very soon not in the Armenian tongue.
     

  2. An excellent editorial

    An excellent editorial with factual analysis. ARF Armenia has become a corrupt party just like the ruling RPA party now in bed with a corrupt and criminal regime.

  3. ARF editorial

    Well factually presented and analyzed.  

    I sometimes think to myself about  ARF. It  has a great potential and is desperately needed in Diaspora, and  I think the goods outweigh the bads…the goods being the Armenian youth wish to belong to Armenian organizations they can be proud of, can relate to, and would hopefully connect them to their homeland…regardless of the faults and bad political decisions, and bad reputation amongst the people, the existence of the structure itself is useful, necessary….it gives us, non Dashnags something to chew on…ha ha ha…

    You are damn if you accept it, and you are damn if you do not…and you come to realize that the BAD  political decisions, all of them have had something to do with MONEY AND  POWER …all the good decisions have a lot to do with the Armenian people everywhere, in Armenia and in Diaspora…Also, the BAD decisions tend to divide the Armenian people and never unite us, again.  It also has a lot to do with MONEY AND POWER….and at the end of the day, if Armenians gave Dashnags, in Armenia and Diaspora, all they would want, POLITICAL POWER AND MONEY…I wonder if there would still be an independent Armenia…

  4. Enough criticizing ARF

    It seems it has become a fashion to criticize ARF. Wake up! It's the best organized Armenian party in the Diaspora with the most membership and the leader of "Hay Tad". Is it jealousy that motivates people to crucify it?

    If Armenia were in danger it is from within the ranks of ARF that people will join our forces in Armenia, like they did during the liberation of Artsakh.

    Instead of lending a helping hand people, for whatever imagined reasons, are villifying it.

    1. Criticizing the ARF

      I disagree with Azad that the ARF is being criticized unjustly.

      It's the Armenia branch of the ARF that is being criticized for obvious and valid reasons. What ARF Armenia has done in getting cozy with the corrupt Sarkissian government is unforgivable and stunning. I very much doubt the ARF in the Diaspora is in agreement with the misguided decision.

      Does it mean that because the ARF in Diaspora generally does a good job its Armenia branch should not be exposed for sleeping with criminals in the homeland?

    2. It’s a fair game

      In any political race the front-runner is at risk of being under the microscope. ARF, the "best organized", with "most membership" and "leader of 'Hay Tad'" figuratively speaking is the front-runner, and it is very natural that its actions are much more exposed to scrutiny. It's a fair game.

      While on the topic, it's even fairer to call upon the rank and file to get rid of the ARF leadership in Armenia, because aligning with the oligarchy is not only detrimental to Armenians in Armenia, it also risks the political well-being of the Armenians in the Diaspora.

      Let me briefly elaborate. During the Ter-Petrosyan years the other two traditional parties which aligned with the president were emaciated. The call that there was no more a need of Armenian political parties in the Diaspora and they should operate in "free" Armenia, in hindsight was unwise. The ARF risks the same fate if it continues to be in bed with ARP, though at a lesser degree. I wonder how RAG and HSDP leadership did not learn the lessons and moved or are in the process of moving to Yerevan.

      For as long as Armenia is not a democratic country — not imported or imposed from outside — it makes no sense at all moving the leadership to Armenia. Neither during the first republic nor the Soviet times did the leadership in Armenia heed to the substantive needs/demands of the Diaspora, and there is no reason to believe the same scenario won't repeat itself during the third republic.

  5. Save ARF

    Azad misses the intention of the editorial. The editorial criticized one segment of the party and one decision; it is not trying to “crucify” the ARF. According to my recollection, Keghart.com on many occasions has praised the party and its work on behalf of the Armenian people, specially, the fine work of the Armenian National Committees of America and other diaspora countries. As everyone knows, the ANC is the political arm of the party.

    No one is dismissing the ARF's excellent work of the past 100 years. The party was a potent voice for the Armenian Diaspora. Unfortunately, the party is now a pale shadow of its past. The party has become autocratic. Grass-roots members are excluded from decision-making or even having any input. A large number of party members are complaining about Armenia ARF's decision to join the coalition with Serge Sarkissian’s gang. A large number of ARF members in Armenia, Canada and other diaspora countries are unhappy with the decision, but no one dares to speak publicly. Some party leaders in various regions have turned the party into a one-man show. If anyone challenges them, even in closed-doors party meetings, with a constructive and healthy self-criticism, the person is chastised, censured, alienated, suppressed, disciplined, and expelled from the party. The best manifestation of this policy is what happened to Toronto ARF members who joined the Armenian Canadian Conservative Association.

    The ARF party used to boost its ranks with a large number of Armenian intellectuals. This was one of the most important reasons for its success. Where are those intellectuals? Why they are on the sideline?

    This whole modus operandi of intolerance toward members who do not share every decision certain "leaders" make or the direction the party takes is undermining the party and its work on behalf of the Armenian people.

    Within the ranks of the ARF there are hundreds of principled, patriotic, honest, and dedicated members. But sitting on ones laurels and being mesmerized by past success is counterproductive. They should grab the bull by the horns and save their party. The party should go back to its roots and allow voices of dissent become once again part and parcel of party policy-making decisions and draft a new course for the party. Otherwise, the party will suffer from mediocrity and will become another private club.  

    Keghart should be praised–not condemned–for this timely editorial.

  6. ARF is a tool

    Every time someone honestly examines the history of the ARF he/she will conclude that the ARF was founded for three reasons: to divide the Armenian people; to divide the Armenian Church; and to destroy the Soviet Union.

    When ARF was founded by Christo Mikhayelovitch [Christopher Mikaelian] and his friends, Armenians already had two political parties–the Armenagans (Ramgavars) and the Hnchagians.

    ARF members killed Archbishop Yeghishe Turian while the church leader was performing Holy Mass. Party members took out one of the eyes of the great 20th century poet Vahan Tekeyan because they disagreed with him. They fought (Njteh and Dro) on the side of the Nazis against the Soviet Union at a time when Armenia was a member of that union. Many Armenians were killed when the ARF, through the Cilician See, grabbed the Armenian Prelacy in Iran from Echmiadzin. For decades the ARF worked with the enemies of the Soviet Union where the Armenian people had at last found some peace to re-start life and to progress. I am ashamed to mention what Hunanians did in the Armenian Parliament.

    "I will always cry for you Poor Armenian People".

    Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian

  7. Opportunism Seemingly Pays Off

    It's true that the ARF is the most organized political party in the Diaspora, but it is so unfortunate that it is outfoxed by the Armenian "mafia" which is sacking our homeland. All this means that the Diaspora has now zero chance of making any impact on Armenia's politics and that the Diaspora IS the "cow" which is being milked too.

  8. Incapable of Governing

    This article, the comment board and by extension this website prove that we Armenians are incapable of effectively governing ourselves. Even worst, we Armenians are incapable of ‘unconditionally’ partaking in nation building. After all, we have seen it take place in Serbia, Iraq, Cyprus, Venezuela, Egypt, Greece, Libya, Syria, Ukraine… we still see large numbers of people (either deeply ignorant simple folk or dubious characters in the service of Armenia’s enemies) trying to tear down the newly re-established Armenian fortress brick-by-brick… all in the name of pursuing Western fairy tales like “democracy”, “freedom of expression”, “free and fair elections” and “civil society”. Throughout Armenian history Armenians were Armenia’s greatest problem. Nothing much seems to have changed.

    1. Fairy Tales

      Two fairy tales.

      Democratic Western countries: the rest of the world want to move there including Norserount.

      Non-democratic countries: no one wants to move there, including Norserount, and everyone living there wants to leave.

      1. King Arshag Tale

        Berge,

        Instead of Fairy Tale, I would have likened it to be King Arshag Tale after the Armenian king who was afraid to express his views on a soil where he feared for his security.

        Norserunt reminds me of the Armenians in Los Angeles who would wrap the Statue of Liberty with a Turkish flag and air on TV but would dare not, for good reason, place a Turkish flag on the arz (cedar) tree when the Lebanese authorities forbade Armenians airing their patriotic song on Lebanese TV. Nor did the same Armenians consider, for good reason,  to express their dismay when their country’s President Assad was Erdogan's best buddy. The same Armenians are happily content, surely for good reason, with the policies of the kings and sheikhs of the countries they have made theirs for their livelihood.

        Norserunt embodies to me the very Armenian characteristic he laments when he says that “throughout Armenian history Armenians were Armenia’s greatest problem. Nothing much seems to have changed.”

Comments are closed.

You May Also Like