Wednesday, 23 March 2011

When opposition leaders in Armenia fail...

I have no desire whatsoever to comment in detail on the ‘hottest topic’ of discussions in Armenia now - why or whether Levon Ter-Petrosyan (LTP) should have approached another prominent oppositionist, head of Zharagutyun (‘Heritage’) party, ex-Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannisyan who is on hunger strike at Liberty sq in Yerevan. [Read also: Liberty sq. Liberated. ‘Spring of hope’ for changes in Armenia?]

Most reactions I saw are exploiting this topic for their narrow political interests and dirty tricks under the cover of ‘care’ about Raffi or LTP or opposition or Armenia’s future... I just want to say one thing. In my opinion, regardless of political desirability, inter-personal relations, sensitivities, ‘simple’ or ‘complex’ politics, LTP should have approached Raffi. I do not care about all sorts of excuses provided. It was the only right thing to do for ethical and human perspectives. It was also right thing to do in terms of “public relations”.

‘17 March’ should have been a day of triumph for LTP led Armenian opposition. It was. For one day only. Now it's turning into a PR disaster for Levon. As if things were not bad enough, LTP comes up with an “explanation” of his actions and motives, that is beyond words ridiculous.
Armenian National Congress (HAK) leader Levon Ter-Petrossian responded to a question by local daily Haykakan Jamanak (“Armenian Times”) as to why the opposition leader didn’t approach Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian during the HAK rally on Mar. 17 at Liberty Square. Recall, Hovannisian has been camped out at Liberty Square since Mar. 15, the day he began his hunger strike “for freedom.”
“Because that goes against my Christian principles. Christianity for me is before or even more than religion, it is a moral codex. And this codex categorically rejects the piety, mercy, humility, modesty, charity, including a demonstration of fasting, of Christian virtues. When a virtue is put on display, it stops being a virtue. Particularly on fasting, one of the Armenian Church’s most authoritative Fathers, Hovhan  [Hovhannes] Mandakuni, in the 5th century said the following: ‘The Devil destroys both the one fasting and his Lent, when man wants and classifies himself above others, so that his abstinence is drummed by others, and people become aware of and admire his endurance. Such a Lent doesn’t cleanse and justify, but rather pollutes and destroys’ (Matenagirk Hayots, A, p. 1170). On request, a hundred such examples can be brought forth from Armenian and world church literature.
“Anyway, if Raffi Hovannisian instead of publicly fasting, announced a hunger strike with specific political demands, I would not only welcome him, but also announce my full solidarity,” he said.
I mean. seriously, Levon. This is what you are going to do when you come to the power? To preach? And to "explain" your actions by Bible articles, Christian “principles” and “virtues” as opposed to the constitution, human rights and law?

There are few things more off-putting for me than politicians using religion to “explain”, “excuse” or “justify” their actions or inaction.

Now about Raffi’s “demands”. That Raffi started his hunger strike “for freedom” without any specific demands was a bit strange, to say the least. After all the criticism of recent days and the latest from LTP, today he finally revealed what he called Heritage party’s “political demands”. Sorry, Raffi, these are not ‘demands’, but rather empty slogans and populism:

1. Power to the people
2. No to a party state
3. The people are the country’s owner
4. Vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God)
5. A free square, free citizen, free country
6. A free citizen, a safe state
7. A dignified future for Armenian youth
8. Employment for the people
9. SOS Armenia is being emptied of Armenians
10. No to injustice, poverty and emigration
11. An end to ruling corruption
12. Strength also lies in morality
13. No to [the Armenian-Turkish] Protocols, yes to Homeland
14. Recognition of Artsakh [the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh]
15. That miraculous country which is ours and will be ours — Armenia.

"The voice of the people is the voice of God". What a ‘powerful’ ‘demand’, indeed. And so on, and so on...

Come on, Raffi, I was of much-much higher opinion of you. In fact, you were one of the most respected (if not the most) Armenian politicians for me. But this? You can’t be serious. This is a joke. Honestly, when I started reading these points, I burst into laughing. But then I stopped as I realised how sad the reality is.

Yes, I know, I’ve been reminded that this is not specific to Armenia, that politicians suck everywhere, but have to repeat what I’ve said on Twitter and Facebook today. Politicians in Armenia suck... even the good ones.


Mikael said...

I disagree with your interpretation referring to the behaviour of Levon Ter-Petrosyan in this whole issue because I think that you misunderstood/misinterpreted first president's answer given in the Haykakan Zhamanak interview.

See, Raffi Hovhannisyan after announcing and starting a hungerstrike didn't give concrete political demands for his move. Nevertheless by that time many HAK leaders (Demirchyan, Sargsyan, Shahnazaryan, Manukyan etc.), though surprised by the solitary move of Raffi, visited him and declared their solidarity with Raffi.
As the March 17 rally came it seems that everybody was waiting for Levon Ter-Petrosyan to approach and salute Raffi. He didn't, with good reasons (I'm going to clarify them in the following) and part of the press and online community by not understanding this reasons started to take their position in the soap opera, blaming Ter-Petrosyan for personal steps towards Raffi, vanity and so on.

But Levon Ter-Petrosyan by his yesterday's answer not only answered to the "top question" why he did not approach Raffi but in fact also analyzed with this short answer the whole hungerstrike move as such.

For understanding Ter-Petrosyan's answer we have to take a wider look of the issue. I'll try to explain it:

Raffi Hovhannisyan, after a Zharangutiun meeting went on hungerstrike, two days before the long awaited HAK March 17 rally. So it is more or less clear that to do such a move was at least a common Zharangutiun-party decision. Therefore the Zharangutiun party decided not to cooperate with the HAK, but to pursue a strategy independant of the latter. By the way this decision was made at a time when HAK was holding mass rallies more frequently, evaluating the struggle to the next, more active level. With the fact that no concrete political demands were made with the hunger strike (in my oppinion here one can see a lack of political intelligence in Raffi's person) but either the hunger strike was more or less declared as Lent with "struggle for freedom" the move reveiled as what it is:
a PR-campaign for Zharangutiun party in a time when there was danger that perception of Zharangutiun as such could disappear due to the fact that HAK was about to play the key role in the opposition. To reach the aim of getting PR the Zharangutiun party moreover put the idea of an accumulated, united opposition struggle in the second place for own interestes. Taking this into consideration it is also clear that the gained interest is not only good today in time of struggle, but also tomorrow, when it comes to new elections and Raffi Hovhannisyan with Zharangutiun, as he said during his hungerstrike (in Asbarez interview), will candidate for presidency.
Moreover the Zharangutiun didn't care, that not only by its move but as well by the statements following the move by Raffi himself and Zharangutyan MPs referring to Levon Ter-Petrosyan, the overall opposition could have been weakened, with this serving as benefit for the illegitimate authorities.

In the end what Levon Ter Petrosyan said in his answer was including all the assessments done above. Clearly he said to Raffi: If it is your sole aim to hold a lenting-period (knowing at the same time that it was not) you could have done it just for yourself. If you aimed to hold a hungerstrike with political demands (knowing at the same time that this was not the aim,too), I would not only approached but supported you. But if you are trying to do a PR-campaign that is disguised as hunger strike, discrediting the HAK and trying to raise questions about its leader, serving by this the authorities, than we are not going to support you.

So of course the reasoning given by LTP was from an religious context but it entailed the reveiled truth of the whole issue.

Anonymous said...

Why "of course the reasoning given by LTP was from an religious context," Mikael? Though I appreciate the points you raised and can understand your argument, I still agree with Mika and say that politicians using religion to support their arguments/decisions is not justified under any means. I can see how some might see Raffi's move as a PR stunt and I can see how the timing seems so well-planned; however, that shouldn't be a reason for one opposition leader to acknowledge another opposition leader as both — in the end — are striving for the same things.

(And by the way, read this article published today in which HAK coordinator Levon Zurabyan says the opposition is united — almost sounding like he supports both Hovannisian's actions and Tigran Karapetyan's:

Ani said...

As I’ve said many times, in order to move forward the focus must be on What and Why, not Who—yet personality politics continue to dominate and spoil the discussion. Although I had my doubts about the reasons for Raffi’s hunger strike, I was willing to support his right to do it, but I did want to know his specific demands. 13 of his 15 “demands” are just vaguely pointing in a future direction and he would surely starve to death before seeing any of them come to pass. So you need to look at points 13 and 14 and decide whether you agree with them as policy. These two policies in fact line up with the ARF-Dashnak ideology, so I would not be at all surprised to see Heritage and ARF join together quite soon. Then you also need to look at ANC’s 15 points and see what you agree with and disagree with there as well—I think we can all agree there is much more content to them, at least.

As to whether LTP should have visited Raffi, surely it would have been the convenient, easy, and diplomatic thing for him to do. But I wonder how many remember the history 20-some years ago when as Foreign Minister Raffi undermined LTP’s bid to open the border between Turkey and Armenia in terms somewhat similar but superior (with Karabakh having its own seat at the negotiating table) to the Protocols that Sargsyan and Nalbandian tried to negotiate with their Football Diplomacy. Surely LTP sees a similar undermining ruse in Raffi’s Hail Mary pass of a hunger strike now, as well as a lot of “Saint Raffi” positioning in the press, etc. I too would have preferred religion being left out of the discussion, but there is a definite undertone of it in Raffi’s actions as well.

The saddest thing of all is that the four principal characters in this drama are the same four characters from 20 years ago. Here’s my modest proposal: LTP, Serzh, and Robert all go to Liberty Square and have a 20-year reunion picnic with Raffi, and remember the time when they were all compatriots. . .Quite a fantasy, huh?

artmika said...

Glad to hear that prominent LTP oppositionist ex-FM Arzumanyan questions their recent tactics, calls for more transparency & openness (AM):

Արզումանյանը Տեր-Պետրոսյանին վստահում է, բայց թափանցիկություն է ակնկալում

Երեկ «Փոքր խորհուրդ» հասարակական-քաղաքական խմբի «Ներքաղաքական իրավիճակի գնահատականները և զարգացման հեռանկարները» թեմայով քննարկմանը մասնակցել է ՀԱԿ անդամ, ՀՀ նախկին արտգործնախարար Ալեքսանդր Արզումանյանը:

Քննարկման ընթացքում անդրադարձ է եղել «Ժառանգություն» կուսակցության առաջնորդ Րաֆֆի Հովհաննիսյանի հացադուլին: Արզումանյանը նշել է, որ Կոնգրեսն իրեն տեղադրեց մրցակցային դաշտ, և բաց թողեց համախամբման երկու առիթ. երբ Հովհաննիսյանը եկավ ՀԱԿ-ի մարտի 1-ի հանրահավաքի, և երկրորդը՝ երբ նա հացադուլ սկսեց Ազատության հրապարակում:

Բանախոսի կարծիքով` ցուցաբերած նման քաղաքական տրամաբանությունը ընդունելի կլիներ, եթե «մենք պատրաստվում ենք հերթական ընտրություններին, և անտրամաբանական է արտահերթի պահանջի պարագայում»:

«Եթե ՀԱԿ-ի ռազմավարությունը հերթական ընտրություններում խորհրդարանական տեղեր նվաճելն է, դա ինքնին հասկանալի է, բայց դրա մասին հարկավոր էր հանրությանն ազնիվ ասել: Հնարավոր ինչ-ինչ պայմանավորավածությունները իշխանության հետ նույնպես ընդունելի են այն դեպքում, երբ դրանց մասին հայտարարավում է: Բոլոր քաղաքական գործընթացները պետք է թափանցիկ լինեն: Ու եթե մենք փոխում ենք հանրահավաքների ֆորմատը, այն դարձնում համաժողովրդական ֆորում՝ ուրեմն պետք է ձայն տրամադրենք հասարակությանը, տարբեր դիրքորոշման տեր մարդկանց: Հասարակությունը իրավունք ունի լիդերին հարցեր ուղղել ու պատասխաններ պահանջել: Քաղաքացիական նախաձեռնության դիսկուրսը չի կայանա, եթե չծավալվի բաց, ազնիվ բանավեճը», – ասել է Արզումանյանը:

Մասնակիցների այն հարցին, թե ինչու Կոնգրեսի մյուս ներկայացուցիչների Րաֆֆի Հովհաննիսյանին այցելությունները չդիտարկվեցին իբրև Կոնգրեսի աջակցություն, Արզումանյանը պատասխանեց, որ Լևոն Տեր-Պետրոսյանն է, ի վերջո, խորհրդանշում ՀԱԿ-ը:

Այն հարցին, թե արդյոք ծոմի ու քաղաքական հացադուլի մեջ չկա տարբերություն, և ի վերջո դրանցից ո՞րն է Հովհաննիսյանի ձեռնարկածը, բանախոսը պատասխանել է, որ «Ժառանգության» առաջնորդը, կրթվելով ԱՄՆ-ում, սովոր է այդ երկուսին էլ «ծոմ» անվանել, ինչպես որ դա ընդունված է անգլախոս ավանդույթում, և որ պասի շրջանի հետ այդ հացադուլի համընկումը պատահական էր: Ըստ Արզումանյանի՝ դա իսկական քաղաքական հացադուլ է և ոչ թե կրոնական ծոմ:

Անդրադառնալով հնարավոր ապագա զարգացումներին՝ բանախոսը ընդգծել է, որ հիմա աշխարհքաղաքական մթնոլորտը իշխանափոխության համար շատ ավելի նպաստավոր է, քան երեք տարի առաջ, քանի որ այսօր աշխարհում ոչ մի իշխանություն չի հանդգնի գնալ քաղաքացիների անհնազանդությունը ուժով ճնշելուն, և որ դեռ շարունակվում է դրական դիտվել արաբական երկների օրինակը, ինչը, սակայն, կարճ ժամանակում կարող է հակառակի վերածվել, եթե Եգիպտոսում զարգացումները ընդունեն անբարենպաստ ընթացք:

«Ընդդիմության բարոյականությունը հենց նրանում է, որ նա ազատ է իր խոսքում, գնահատականում և չի կրում զսպվածության այն պահանջը, որին պետք է ենթարկվեն պետական մարմինները, արտաքին քաղաքականության դեպքերը գնահատելիս», – հայտարարել է ՀՀ նախկին արտգործնախարարը:

Նա ընդգծել է նաև, որ ոչ մի պատճառ չունի կասկածելու, որ Տեր-Պետրոսյանը շարունակում է իրականացնել իշխանափոխության և արմատական փոփոխությունների ծրագիրը, և վստահում է նրան, խոսքը գնում է միայն ՀԱԿ-ում որոշումներ ընդունելու թափանցիկության և հասարակական իրական ներգրավվածության մթնոլորտի ստեծման մասին: