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 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.