Notes From Hairenik

The determined results on the constitutional amendments referendum held on November 27 are finally in. Although the government declared victory with a 93% ballots cast by supposedly 1.5 million eligible voters for a “Yes” vote on constitution reforms, logic as well as common sense—both of which take on different meanings in Armenia—show otherwise. Despite reports that several polling stations were basically empty of voters, countless ballots made their way mysteriously into boxes. An independent NGO called “It’s Your Choice” claims that more ballots were stuffed this time around than for the presidential elections in 2003. In other words, although the government claims that people voted “Yes”, very few people actually showed up to their neighborhood polling station to cast their ballots. So someone cast the votes, albeit “Yes” ones, for them. ( has done an excellent job in covering the referendum—go to the Archive section to read reports from the last week).

The opposition movement being the joke that it is declared foul as soon as the polling stations were open, claiming that their own observers were sent away. But even though they understand that was wrong, they left willingly anyway because they were boycotting the referendum (something isn’t making sense here). The movement managed to organize some protests in Central Yerevan that didn’t amount to anything, except to serve as an excuse for people to vent out their frustrations in public.

Strangely enough, the Council of Europe—the very organization that was pushing for these amendments to go through—criticized the way the referendum was conducted. The US cast its doubts as well in the results, calling on the president-appointed Central Election Commission of Armenia to investigate the reported vote fraud and so forth. It’s funny that the US, however, cannot manage to fuel the democracy-building process in Armenia, other than to dump money into programs that don’t work. Let’s be frank—there are the Peace Corps, whose volunteers go out into the regions and do things that no one seems to know about, the National Democratic Institute which, as far as I have heard, does absolutely nothing to promote democracy awareness, and other US NGOs or institutes working to install Internet centers in schools throughout Armenia that kids had been using for surfing porn sites. Some citizens are also sent to the US on “civil society exchange” programs, which are beneficial or useless to them, depending on who you speak with. But judging from what continues to happen at election time, nothing is being done to really “promote civil society” as I have read so many times to having been conducted.

Then again, there are no Diasporan Armenian organizations doing the same from what I am aware. One organization that has the experience, the manpower, and the know-how to mobilize Armenian citizens to be proactive about building democracy in their nation, called the Armenian National Committee of America, is not doing anything in the slightest towards this vain. I have often said to deaf ears that the ANCA should have long ago opened a field office in Yerevan and conducted its “grassroots” training programs it is so famous for to get citizens motivated, especially the youth. But they have too many other things to worry about, such as how to get the Armenian Genocide to be recognized by the US and Turkey—apparently this is still more important than pushing forward democracy in the homeland, since everything seems to be okay there.

It should be mentioned that Armenians generally suppress themselves in any undertakings that affect them as a whole. Criticizers of issues that are political, cultural or socio-economic in nature regarding the Armenian nation are considered “anti-Armenian” or against the cause or interest group(s) backing the issues at hand—the referendum is without a doubt an excellent example of this. Surely Armenians are hampering their own progress in the modern world, as Armenia moves relentlessly towards international economic integration or globalism. The nature and psyche of Armenians, albeit stereotypical, with features of paranoia, arrogance, resentment, and intolerance, impedes the positive outcome of the nation’s capabilities for sociopolitical advancement on domestic as well as international levels. The most detrimental factor in ensuring the survival of the Armenian nation, namely indifference, is something that can be compared to a computer worm virus, as it damages the user that receives the infection, then quickly spreads to dismantle all related systems on a network.

The nation also does not necessarily comprehend that the two miracles facilitating mankind’s advancements in the 21st century, namely transportation and communication, can very easily wipe it out of existence within the next 100 years. Armenians do not yet understand that the mountains no longer protect them from their enemies and environmental or socioeconomic dangers. Transportation, while allowing some form of economic growth continuity by ensuring commerce across state boundaries, can also be the precipitator for instantaneous invasion or destruction at a moment’s notice. Advancements in communication, which seem to outdo themselves with each passing year, contribute to the disintegration of Armenian socio-culture—younger generations become more attracted to the pleasures or lifestyles that other cultures have to offer, and thus a degeneration of traditions continues ever onward. Youth become increasingly disillusioned with what they perceive around them, and rather than try to rebuild, they leave in search of what they have seen and heard to be what is “right,” damn the consequences.

Armenians are too busy obsessing with their own legacy and past tragedies to address the challenges that lie ahead regarding their own statehood. They are chronically short-sighted as a nation with no insight as to how to set viable, long-term country-building agendas. It is quite obvious now that there is no real concerted effort to bring about change in Armenian civil society because no one is serious about making that happen, including the government and especially its opposition, which is fueled by obtaining seats of power rather than enacting governmental reform. The people need to wake up if they want their voices to be actually heard, because what is happening to them is truly a crime. But as a whole they don’t care. And as long as they don’t, democracy will not work in Armenia as it should. With no end on the horizon, “vochinch” continues.

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Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
NDI supports It's Your Choice.

Also, regarding the boycott, you have confused the situation. The opposition were boycotting voting the referendum in terms of voting and taking 2 places on the 9 person Election commissions.

However, they still sent their observers to monitor the vote which is their right. The reason was to conduct a parallel count of people who turned out to vote. In some places, however, their observers were frightened off by local strongmen.

I saw this personally in one polling station in Shahumian (just outside Artashat) controlled by the local mafia of government minister Hovik Abrahamian who are notorious for violence.

Blogger Hasmik said...
Christian --

Hear No Evil
Speak No Evil
and See No Evil

If people can only hear what you wrote. Your blog is very powerful and profound.

So long our people continue being apathetic about their government and politics, the mob will continue to rule. Power can be in the hands of the people if they want it to be, only if they knew!

Anonymous Knarik O. Meneshian said...

As I finished reading your interesting and thought-provoking entry, I could not help but think that in addition to the "vochinch" mentality you mention, there is, in general, a loss of idealism and a great lack of respect for the country and its rich history and culture. In, general, the idealism that once was, not too long ago, has been replaced with hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, and distrust. The sweet words, "tsavud danem," spoken so often during the early and mid 1990s, is a rarity now. Instead, there is more callousness and indifference towards one another.

It is apparent that certain things that are in great need of change in Armenia, to make it a better place for everyone, will take more time to accomplish. Until that happens, everyone, no matter how poor or rich, how humble or prominent, can begin today, right now, to do something to make Armenia a better place for all of its people. For example: showing more compassion towards one another; being more tolerant and understanding of others and their beliefs; being more kind and polite; saying "Thank you!" (and meaning it) when helped or remembered in some generous or thoughtful way; and helping those less fortunate. As Jane Addams believed, "...any good society would not leave any of its citizens to starve or freeze..." Perhaps, with such simple changes, the hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, and distrust that many of the people feel these days will begin to diminish. What a nice Christmas present, given throughout the year, this would be!

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Please do not leave comments that are addressed as personal attacks against other comment posters here. It's not appropriate and I just don't want to see it on my blog.