Notes From Hairenik
May 8, 2007

Yesterday at 7:00 pm I attended a political rally staged by Prosperous Armenia in front of the Opera House, the leader of which is multimillionaire oligarch Gagik Tsarukian, who is otherwise infamously known as Dodi Gago. However, apparently because of his rise in stature as a politician he is known as Mr. Tsarukian in his fiefdom, the town of Abovyan located just north of Yerevan, from what I have been told. The rally lasted for about 30 minutes before dance music started blaring accompanied by a light show and smoke, then after another half-hour a concert featuring the likes of Andre and some popular “chick bands” flown in from Russia had begun. There seemed to have been television coverage of the event as well since a boom camera was actively operating.

Unfortunately the sound system was not set up properly so that people who stood on the sides of the huge concert stage that was erected could not hear anything that was being said. However, I can guess that Mr. Tsarukian (I won’t refer to him by his somewhat demeaning nickname), who was clad in a khaki leisure suit, was basically saying the same thing that he has been up until now at public gatherings: that once the party has been elected things for the ordinary Armenian would improve, presumably socio-economically, and that all Armenians young and old alike would unite to help build a prosperous country, but how those objectives will be met of course are completely unclear. It was interesting to see one banner hanging on the Opera House wall read, “I want to learn, I elect Prosperous Armenia.” I didn’t understand what that meant until I was told that he personally apparently is paying schooling expenses for select students—I don’t know how they are chosen to receive financial aid. So a good portion of the youth is on his side.

Indeed more than half of the crowd at the event was youth, and the other portion seemed to have been middle aged men or elderly pensioners. But there were also people simply roaming around eating popcorn, sunflower seeds, and cotton candy, presumably waiting for the show to start. The overwhelming majority of those several thousand present were male, and most of young men under the age of 25 were evidently “aperos,” in other words those who adhere to the rabiz culture and lifestyle. I will write more about the apero movement in a separate post, but in the meantime, read my article here.

Prosperous Armenia was formed just over a year ago in expectation of winning a vast number if not the majority of seats in the 2007 National Assembly Elections. Although Mr. Tsarukian is effectively the front-man, it is widely believed that the organization’s mastermind is President Robert Kocharian, although he has no official affiliation with the party. It has gained about 370,000 members in such a short time frame mainly by passing out “gifts” to people living in rural areas in exchange for party membership. The way it worked was that someone would receive a sack of potatoes or flour if he or she agreed to sign a form pledging membership in the party, then the person’s passport would be confiscated for a short while until it was photocopied or the information in it was registered. There are rumors that Prosperous Armenia is now simply handing out money, as the other pro-government parties have purportedly been doing, namely the Republican Party of Armenia and ARF-Dashnaktsutiun, in areas mainly outside Yerevan.

Now there seems to be a battle for the majority of seats mainly between Prosperous Armenia and the Republican Party. I have heard many times the statement that “everything has already been arranged” regarding the allocation of seats, in other words the elections are just a show and will most like be falsified to some degree. If anything the two parties will form a new pro-government coalition, either before election day or soon after, and the ARF-Dashnaktsutiun will have no choice but to join as a junior partner if it wants to hold on to its power, especially if it is serious about meeting its pledges to voters, not to mention the need for its members to continue operating lucrative businesses. Thus three of the wealthiest people in Armenia will have secured political power, two of which of course already have, namely the president and prime minister. No one can say for sure what life will be like for Armenians after the elections, but one thing is certain—the middle and upper-middle classes living in Yerevan will continue to expand, and life for most Armenians in rural areas will change very slightly or not at all, especially if they are putting all their eggs in Prosperous Armenia’s basket. I doubt the gifts will continue to be handed out once the party is in office.

Onnik Krikorian will most likely print photos and text here.


Anonymous artashes said...
That was a critically objective post. Thank you!

Anonymous Armenian TV said...
This guy is a jerk.
And he's emocracy with his money and his violent bodyguards.