Saturday, 27 October 2007

Ter-Petrosyan's comeback

It’s official now. Levon Ter-Petrosyan will run for presidency in upcoming Armenian elections. [selected blog reports, video and photos - here, here, here and here] I wrote about my thoughts of him before. Now it’s time for updates.

Number-wise, the rally could be considered a success. Even if it’s 10 000, it is still good, taking into account apathy of population and all sorts of efforts by current administration against the rally and Levon & co. Based on various sources and friends’ impressions who attended the rally, atmosphere-wise it was also a successful day for Levon. There was optimism and good energy around during that rally.

His tone was calmer and speech - more solid than the one on 21st September, when he first declared his presidential intentions. He looked very arrogant on the 21st.

In fact, if I were to meet Levon, I would say to him: “Do not be arrogant. It does not suit you.” You were first elected as people’s president. You were ‘one of us’ – well, at least that’s how the majority perceived you. However, in few years you became arrogant, kind of self-isolated and intolerant to dissent voice. I quite like the fact that you were holding meetings with various political parties, even those that you shut down during your term of presidency. However, I’d like to get assurances that the practice of political dialogue will continue if you were to be elected as President.

You keep criticising current administration for their inability to solve Karabakh problem. Fair enough. However, your plan was not any better. You rightly repeated that under any solution Karabakh cannot be a part of Azerbaijan again. But you supported a plan that did not give any clear indication as to what will happen to Karabakh status. Karabakh is one of the key issues and you have to spell out more clearly your vision.

When you criticise current regime of being corrupt, you are becoming a very easy target to counter-claims. Unless you come clean for the past, it won’t be easy for you to re-gain electorate’s trust and move forward to present and future. There were lots of speculations before the rally that you may acknowledge your mistakes and say “Sorry” to people who trusted you and then felt betrayed by you. Your vague ‘apology’ during infamous forced resignation speech in 1998 is not enough. May be yesterday was not a right time to do so, but you have to do it in coming months... People won’t forget your mistakes, but they will appreciate your frankness.

To be honest, while I am glad that it seems we are to witness an exciting presidential campaign, there is something inside me that makes me feel worry. Call it intuition or whatever, I have those weird feelings that something bad may happen. Too much is at stake to those who are in power now if they to lose it via democratic elections. On the other hand, Levon came out to win, and any other outcome will not be ‘acceptable’ to his supporters. I hope nothing bad will happen, I really do. I hope we won’t witness violence and blood. I feel unease... I want to get rid of these feelings, but I do not know yet how...


Observer said...

Aleya Jacta Est. This is a fight for death, and I am somehow sure, that it will be a lose-lose situation for the people of Armenia in the end.

Armenan media have already slipped down to the level of Soviet times. If the tendency continues, we will have the worst elections ever and probably get thrown out of the CoE.

Worse yet - knowing the methods of LTP supporters - like that of Nikol Pashinyan and having witnessed the response of the authorities/police to him, I'm feeling very uneasy. There will be more beetings and (NO!) maybe even bloodsheds :(

My poor Armenian nation, I'm sorry for you :(

artmika said...

You pictured my worst fears, Observer. That's what exactly I am afraid of too... :(

Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, points taken about LTP's supporters -- the two main ones representing the "radical opposition" who are not in parliament because they really didn't get enough votes, but which favor confrontation as a tactic. Some would argue that this is the only way to change the system in Armenia, but yes, it is fraught with significant risks -- and not least of violence.

A counter argument to Ter Petrosian's return is that the government is at least allowing some development, including in the conduct of elections, which the international community is responsible for forcing. That's not to say elections aren't rigged, but vote buying is more prevalent than outright falsification, in my opinion.

So, there is a choice. A possible sharp, short shock to change the system although we're not sure it would result in change of course, or slow, gradual progression in the form of "managed democracy." That is the choice for the electorate, although I would add that I believe LTP could "normalize" relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

I'm also not sure that Kocharian et al are doing a good job in hammering out a peace deal with Azerbaijan. Indeed, as we don't know the full details, I'm increasingly wondering what really is being discussed. Is it worse than that on offer in 1997/8?

As for the media, I think that unfortunately both the pro-opposition and pro-government press are playing the same game. The same was true in the 12 May parliamentary election with civil society even taking sides even against alternative opposition political forces other than Aylentrank/Impeachment.

Even some of the more trusted alternative sources of information in Armenia clearly showed their sympathies for Ter Petrosian although don't get me wrong, they were still far better than State-controlled sources.

In fact, apart from a few attempts to discredit Ter Petrosian by suggesting he is actually running as part of a game orchestrated from the presidential palace, I am more encouraged by what I'm reading on blogs. A true plurality of information and generally accurate reporting in my opinion.

I hope that continues. Well done to nearly all of us so far.

artmika said...

I would like to add something important clearly illustrating the situation with ‘public’ media in Armenia. A very real example which I was involved in.

During events few days ago when opposition representatives were detained for publicising Ter-Petrosyan rally through loudspeakers and leaflets, that evening A1+ (I was following their Armenian language service) did quite a good job, informing what’s going on at as it happens basis. It was late evening/night in Armenia, and apart from Yerkir Media (to some extent), no TV or radio channel provided any info to people. I was reading (from London!) A1+ reports over phone on an half-hourly basis to people in Yerevan, so that they could stay informed. How sad is that?! And only next morning when Radio Liberty was on air again, people were able to get proper information.

It felt like working with dissident radio stations Soviet-era style. That’s a sad, very sad state of state controlled mass information in Armenia, where printed media is diverse but with very limited circulation, and internet is still not widely accessible or used for information purposes.