Tuesday, April 9, 2013

barevolution purpose: to bar evolution

I figured out the purpose of the whole road show and Raffi's 3 ring circus.

To bar political evolution in Armenia.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I think Andreas Ghukasyan deserves to have an inauguration too.  He ran for president, feels like he got more votes than he was officially credited with, and even went on a pretty long hunger strike.  And the hunger strike was less confusing than Raffi's (I refer to the second one) because it started with a stated purpose and ended at elections, all comprehensible to me.  In fact, why stop at three?  I think we should have a few more inaugurations next week.  But let's spread them out so we don't cut into each other's TV time.  Maybe I'll have one too.  I'll round up a few friends to sing some songs, dance, and get my relatives to talk about what a cool guy I am.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

So what will it be?

The rhetoric is confusing.  One day, it is about the rule of law, the next day some anarchist revolution.  If a few hundred people come out to see the road show, then we invoke "the people" as some kind of nouveau-Leninist populism.  If no one comes to see the show, it must be the evil local fiefdom leaders who have scared "the people" away.  Instead of campaigning with a real platform with real ideas to implement change in Yerevan, Raffi ended his Easter fast and...left town.  To go to the regions to continue his Presidential inertial campaign, only now post-election.  If I were a Yerevan resident who supported him I would be wondering why he is not focusing on the effort needed to win a greater share of the splintered electorate.

The American observer swore she saw ballot stuffing, but when they opened the box, they found nada, nothing, zippo.  Honestly, I am at a loss as to how this is explained away.  And just when rational minds would look to find a rational explanation for the allegations, the focus is shifted to the allegations of blackmail of the observer...yet another bait and switch tactic designed to confuse people and take their collective eyes off the ball.

April 9 will be the inauguration of Sargsyan and I am waiting to see what Raffi's action plan is.  So far it keeps giving off the smell of confusion and diversion.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Armenian reality stranger than fiction

Random thoughts:
  • Raffi Hovannisyan is on a hunger strike...again.  And again, is scheduled to end it without effect.  He also announced that he is taking the show to the regions...despite the fact that there is ANOTHER election he is positioning himself to be unprepared for locally.
  • Vardan Oskanian is being pushed forward by Gagik Tsarukyan to be mayor of Yerevan.  Images of Oskanian as manager of the city of Yerevan has many cringing.
  • Mika Baghdasarov's airplane company is reportedly bankrupt.
  • Easter, a time for forgiveness and rebirth, is around the corner.
  • While there are some (timely, don't you think) roads being paved and lane markers being drawn in Yerevan, for all their complaining, nobody from the opposition seems to be presenting action plans to the population on how to take this city from here to there.
  • Vague threats are being posed from various corners to try and torpedo the inauguration scheduled to take place on April 9.
How is your weekend going?

Friday, March 22, 2013

A dose of reality, please

Raffi's latest demands include the immediate handing over of five state institutions to his discretion, including the National Security Service, Prosecutor's Office, Foreign  Ministry (deja vu?), Tax/Customs, and more.  With all due respect to Raffi's popularity (wrapped around the populist rhetoric), someone needs to bring him back to earth.  There is a reason why so few of the independent young free-thinking citizen of Yerevan are supporting Raffi.  Because after the euphoria of greeting each other and chanting happy slogans wears off, there is a managerial, operational question that Raffi should answer for the people.  What is his plan forward?  A reckless, destabilizing, and unfounded power-grab makes it look like he views this whole political exercise like a board-game.

I am getting more concerned that the destabilizing effect will overwhelm whatever possible benefit this irrational standoff may otherwise bring forward.

If in fact he is this confident in his popularity, he should win "80%" of the Yerevan municipal elections, organize his team to be as vigilant as possible to minimize the vote fraud, and generate greater moral cache.  Otherwise, he will demonstrate that he entered yet another political struggle unprepared...one more feather in the Cap of Management Inability.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Logic 101

Does anyone else feel like there is a serious dose of logic missing from Raffi's latest letter, published in the Moscow Times?

"Then on election day, the miracle happened. The government machine failed in almost every major city. Even according to official results Sargsyan lost by large margins."


Actually, Raffi, you lost according to the official results, and by a substantial 20 or so points.  That there were irregularities everyone agrees (the degree to which is where there are differences of opinion).

So, please explain to me why you consider yourself to be the rightful winner?  What if the irregularities in fact accounted for a difference in +5% for you and -5% for Sargsyan?  What if all the stolen votes were for some other candidate, for example, Andreas Ghukasyan...would you be declaring him winner?  How do you know?  And aren't you the one crooning about rule of law?  Is rule of law determined a la Mussolini, that is, whoever is shouting the loudest in the town square decides what the people think?  There are 5k or so people at your rallies, leaving, say, 995,000 or so Yerevan residents not at the rallies.  Are these 99.5% not "the people" too?

On what basis are you calling yourself president?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hunger Strike Redux

So what exactly is Raffi's plan?  It seems like we are moving from aimless to destabilizing.  I am concerned now that the well-intentioned but strategy-absent Raffi will give way to those who have demonstrated on several occasions that a weakened Armenian state is their goal.  And along the way, a new wave of naive youth will feel let down.

This is some weird Gandhi-wanna-be distortion and it doesn't feel right to me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tune in next week

The one constant theme at Raffi's Rallies is that next episode, we'll find out the next bit of info...which will tide us over until the show's next installment.  I hate to mock the whole affair, but I do find such stringing along of the disenfranchised to be a bit irresponsible.  I also fail to see what he expects from the courts: the allegation of violations presented do not seem to be sufficient for annulling the elections, the standard transgressions notwithstanding.

So, what next?  I hope not a spiraling down to calls for Vano to return, or mongol-turk racist invective a la 2008.  To his credit, Raffi has kept his head above the muck, but I do fear that more disenchantment awaits people who think that long term change comes about by chanting in the square every few days.  Five years of political laziness and/or rallying behind has-beens and people who have demonstrated their inability to lead, build teams, and work in the local environment won't get transformed overnight, and sadly, not by following well-meaning people who don't have a plan.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Give peace a chance

Hopefully the sides are taking the opportunity to promote dialogue to better forge a path forward.  While Raffi's rhetoric has been confusing at times, he has allowed for constructive maneuvering on the part of the authorities.  In some ways the ball is in the President's court now, with Sargsyan seemingly having a freer hand to rid himself of member of the apparatus upon whom he may have relied for some votes and/or pre-election stability, neither of which is needed now. If anything, there are several unsavory types who would be welcomed by the general public to be no longer in influential positions and on the 'outs' with the President.  Sadly for the opposition, and for the nation, the last time around it was largely dregs who later showed up leading the charge in Liberty Sq (example, Gagik Jhangiryan) joining the hypocrite hate-mongers (example, Nikol Pashinyan) who have led the opposition down a destructive, populist path to blood.  Raffi's style has been a different one, but I hope he can keep the destructive forces at bay while forging constructive dialog with the powers that be.  Maybe a stronger state can result, or at least not a weakened one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A way forward?

Hard to say what Raffi will or could do to save Armenia from his mobocracy. He's like a cat out on a limb, with nowhere to go and the fire companies, local or international, don't seem ready to send a ladder truck to rescue him.

He could try to do what he should have done to begin with and accept the results and acknowledge the failure of his organization to collect enough evidence to prove their wild allegations that he "won." Now the maximalists seem to driving him and the process. It is unclear to what extent he is in control. At some point, the mob dynamic of takes on a life of its own. Demands which were original means to an end become ends in themselves.

He needs to resist the throwing the baby out with the bath water, that is, resist the nihilistic impulse of all mobs to consider everything "futile." He can save face by saying that although he may not have been able to prove he won, he did gather a respectable number of votes. He can thank those who voted for him. He can promise that he will continue to speak out for them in the name of the common good. Now that common good compels us to unite as a nation and work constructively together. He can clarify that the "victory" was in gathering a respectable opposition vote and giving them the opportunity to be heard. He should wish Sargsyan a productive term, urge him to listen to all the people, including and especially those that voted for Raffi and have taken to the streets, and pledge to work with him and all others that share the vision of a safe, just Armenia. The choice is not between safe and just. It must be just in order for it to be safe, and vice versa.

He should urge people to put aside their rancor and ambitions and return to the hard work of building a country. This is not a football match. It is a republic. The game is not over. It is on-going. Citizens and political leaders do not need positions to contribute to the process or to be heard. Vigilance is the price of democracy. Participate, exercise your rights, express your views, but always keep the good of the nation above personal interests or grudges.

The solution is within reach, if there is the will. The question is whether Raffi has moral fiber to do the right thing for the nation.

He should do it before there is blood on the streets - blood changes everything - martyrs to the cause, personal vendettas, never forget, etc.

Later, when things settle, he can "explain" his "street strategy." It was a delay tactic and public relations ploy. He wanted to amplify the voice of the opposition by dragging it out for a week. He also needed time to gather or produce arguments to support his allegation that he won. Had he conceded on the day after the elections, his "victory" for the opposition, might not have been taken seriously, but he and his team wanted to assure that the voice of the discontent registered with the powers-that-be.

That said, these post-elections antics are not likely to have any lasting impact for the purported "cause of justice and freedom." The entire post-election temper tantrum has become ritualized to the point that it is not effective.

The only lasting consequence will be the real harm it did to Armenia's stature internationally. No matter how many mea culpas or how much handwaving, the mob cannot undo the harm to Armenia. Like the Armenian adage goes, the mob has behaved like a fool who rolled a stone into a pit that 10 smart people cannot get out.

Intentionally, or unintentionally, the mob carried the water well for those who want a vulnerable Armenia at the negotiating table for Artsakh and 2015. Irreversibly sacrificing the common good while making people believe they are doing it for the common good. A feat worthy of Unger Panchuni, throwing the vase on the floor and gleefully crying out "I fixed it."

As Lincoln purportedly said, you can fool some of the people all of the time.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

You say you want an evolution

Compared to 2008, the crowds are more civil, less incited by cries of hatred.  Likewise, the members of the law-enforcement are more properly behaved.  Raffi continues to be vague with the plans, but his rhetoric is a few steps more refined than the "let's blow this whole thing up" approach by Nikol, Levon and the retreads from 5 years ago.  The authorities led by Serzh are more tempered in their style than the more prone to action Robert-led version 5 years ago.  And there has always been the air of discussions in the mix, with some past and some hopeful future one-on-one negotiations between Serzh and Raffi, the most likely scenario to actual improvements.  Most other scenarios can be summed up as the pumping up of unrealistic expectations, some sort of awkward end of the episode, and lots of naive people wondering why it all fell apart, ultimately and unnecessarily feeling despondent.

I hope that March 1 will come and go without provocation or blood.  It is the responsibility of all players to come to some mutual understanding as soon as possible: every day this situation continues, the biggest casualty is the weakening of the state.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Advice for barevolutionaries

Guest post from a friend

I, like many others in Armenia, are steering clear of Raffi and his mob.   Sure, now that the ARF has decided to capitalize on its pre-election propaganda campaign against the legitimacy of Armenia  and dragged its rank and file into the fray, it may seem more political and less personal, but in the end this is about grudges.   Some of the grudges are between oligarchs, the exclusive club to which Raffi, Serge, LTP, Tsarukyan, Paruyr, and the other dozen or so figures with whom the public is on a first name basis and who have arrogated to themselves the right to decide the outcome of elections behind closed doors.   Other grudges are between ordinary people and functionaries who overplay their hands, smug and abusive.   Others are societal, between various groups that believe they are entitled to a bigger piece of the pie.  So what do we have, our post-election ritual - a bunch of people trying to settle their grudges on the streets.   When they see a brawl in the making, thoughtful people stay clear or try to calm things down.   The idle, gawk.   The bored and irresponsible, goad.   The instigators and beneficiaries, gloat.     In the face of this, the result of the elections that most independent observers said were a step forward for Armenian democracy is preferable, regardless of who was elected.   The peaceful process that we took part in is now being undermined by the mobocracy with a former American citizen as its ring-leader.   Nice job, Raffi.   Just what we've waited 10 years for you to do - make a royal mess of things and package it in tired slogans about truth, justice and the American way - you must have missed the class on Al Gore.  

Instead of asking for power, it would be nice to have a substantive list of things that will make life better for people:

1.   more support for the elderly

2.   fairer tax collection, especially from oligarchs

3.   cheaper natural gas

4.   less regulation and more protection for small business

5.   support for families with children

6.   compensation for farmers who've been foreclosed after being forced to buy defective seed wheat from the Government

And the list goes on.   It would be nice, but unlikely that Raffi will turn his leverage to actually improving something for real people in Hayastan - instead he and his coterie will likely focus on getting positions for themselves, on the theory that first they get power, then they will attend to the needs of the people.   But they've got their priorities backwards.   The people should come first.

Barevolution is the term he coined and also the color is orange, just like in Ukraine. Smart people learn from their own mistakes, really smart ones from mistakes of others. Where is Ukraine after the "revolution"? Georgia? Both worse off today than before. Georgia's final loss of territories is part of that equation.

I think realistically he will try to drag this mobilization to Yerevan's mayoral election. There's nothing else from a rational political calculus that is workable.


Reaction to the post-election mess

A week has passed since the elections in Armenia.  There is a waiting game of sorts being played out in Yerevan, and I have been in lots of discussions with various folks about what is going on.  I'll share some thoughts with whoever is interested.  The nation is in a precarious position, and it is a good time for analysis.  So, here goes:

The ARF has been priming this for more than a year both inside and outside Armenia with propaganda that this cannot be a "fair" election, while demonizing Sargsyan - "anyone but Serge."

With a demon as the focal point, the stage was set for polarization and taking the cause to the streets, since no political or legal process can be trusted.  Conveniently, Raffi was a wasting asset who was on his way to being a wannabe has-been, but still had some unspent value as a public face with fewer negatives than LTP.  So they are doing a rerun of 2008.   RH is a prop for both ANM and ARF (whose American branch has a soft spot for their junior member and his family), plus one or more external powers that want a very weak Armenia in 2015 (can you think of any?).   The external powers have already achieved their goal.   All that remains is for the internal malcontents grab some power, positions and money (which they call justice for all, not self-aggrandizement).    Of course, even as they are digging an hole for themselves and the nation, they still believe that they will magically make a better Armenia.   But there's nothing in their track record to justify such a leap of faith.

Wasn't RH the Foreign Minister in Feb. 1992 who incompetently bungled Khojaly so that the Az.-perpetrated massacre is still being blamed on the Armenians and then spent the past 20 years globetrotting with recycle slogans, doing nothing to correct this botch up except grandstanding and mimicking Gandhi for a while?   Isn't this the ARF that has been unable to do anything about anything in decades, here or in the diaspora, except collect money to perpetuate itself and now is willing to be in political alliance with its arch-enemy the ANM that banished them?  Isn't this the ANM which are peas in the pod with the very oligarchs they rail against, for whom the only thing bad about monopoly money is that they aren't getting their "fair' share?   Politics makes strange bed fellows, but this is beyond pathetic.  The flailing of the incompetent in the hands of the amoral, self-serving and sanctimonious  - not pretty sight.  

So it seems the analysts may have been right all along.   They said that all the world is feudal and oligarchic - don't let the public pageants fool you.   The people are props in their hands.   The "springs" and "colored revolutions"  too are in essence oligarchic power grabs played out as street theater for the wretched masses thirsting for their share of patronage when "their guy" seizes power, packaged in worn slogans as dignity and justice for all.   It doesn't matter how their guy wins, just so he wins and the crumbs trickle down.   Few will see that until it is too late. Unfortunately, it is always, already too late.   There a few limits on the extravagant self-pity of the self-righteous in this quest or to the sacrifices they will make, of their own and the national interest, once they are entranced by the glimmer of reaching the promised land.   Even if they doubt they will make it, they are still ready to sacrifice, if not for themselves for their children, they say.   That sacrifice becomes sacred in itself, as the wretched, filled with self-loathing at their helplessness, are swept up in the ennobling romance of being bigger than life, making history.   When played out against the perceived aloofness of those in power who were unwilling or unable to rein in the company they keep or to use the power entrusted to them to protect the people from those who bully them, the stage is set for this kind of pathos.   

Credits:  Eric Hoffer, who had this nailed 50 years ago. 


Just a place to share my thoughts about Armenia, Armenians, and where we are going.  Tune in for more.