|Raffi Hovannisian, March 17, |
Liberty Square. Photo by Karen Minasyan.
Raffi Hovannisian, the first foreign minister of the Republic of Armenia and the leader of the political party Heritage, was continuing his hunger strike in Liberty Square adjacent to the Opera House as of last night. His calls his protest the Fast for Freedom, and he is now into his eighth day on site, there around the clock drinking only spring water.
One of his main goals is to have snap elections called so that the people of Armenia can vote freely and fairly without falling victim to the temptation of selling their vote or the authorities to scheme how to falsify the elections. He as well as many others in opposition feel that the authorities essentially robbed the last presidential elections, and he is also irate about the recent signed memorandum between the leaders of the three coalition parties pledging support for President Serge Sarkisian's candidacy in the next presidential elections scheduled to be held in 2013.
Raffi is also out there to call attention to the socioeconomic issues and lack of effective civil action that plague Armenia today. I had the privilege of interviewing Raffi Hovannisian
for the Armenian Weekly last Saturday and we spoke for about a half hour, occasionally interrupted by his supporters and friends stopping by to lend their support.
I always thought Raffi was a sensible, intelligent human being who is dedicated and principled, and is arguably the only honest politician in Armenia today. Having said that, I have privately criticized him in the past for not doing enough to activate the citizens of Armenia, unlike the first president of Armenia, who emerges from his cave of obscurity once a month or every two months, carrying on like he is the god of opposition but doesn't have much to say about real issues. Raffi has always immersed himself in society, so that he could fully understand the plight of most Armenian citizens who are destitute or else barely getting by. I don't know of any other politician who mentions specific details about what people have to deal with as he did in my interview. They all seem clueless, especially the bureaucrats and pro-government minsters and parliamentarians. President Sarkisian recently demonstrated how truly ignorant he is to the devastating plight of Armenian citizens
who live in villages, as Edik Baghdasaryan explained in a recent Hetq Online article.
Yet I don't know if people are really getting Raffi's message. As he told me in our conversation a few days ago, he expects the youth to be more active in building society on all levels. But the youth--at least in my view--seems to be divided into three groups: one where kids are too busy being kids, another where young people are doing whatever it takes to prepare to leave the country, and a third that is active but is limited in their abilities to some extent due to a lack of resources, waning interest from peers, or pressure from the powers that be to limit the scope of their civil and political ambitions. I doubt whether Raffi would agree with my assessment off the record since he tends to look very favorably on the youth, and I only hope they start gravitating towards him as a result of their protest because they need each other to get democracy working in Armenia.
I am going to be perhaps too blunt in saying that Raffi has a lot of balls for what he is doing. No one in politics would ever do the same as has been proven up til now.
I will add a few more words later on...
Labels: Personal Experiences, Politics, Thoughts and Musings