To expand and clarify a point I made in my previous post: the aim of the opposition is to delegitimize the election, and their hope is to make it look like a sham through lack of real opposition and low voter turnout.
It’s clear to all that there is no real opposition, but that doesn’t mean there is no opposition. There are currently 10 candidates, including Freedom party leader Hrant Bagratyan, and likely more will come. None of these candidates will garner many votes, likely topping out at 1-2%, but their mere presence helps legitimize the election. Mere appearance of opposition is beneficial to the incumbent and may be enough to combat the ANC’s accusations. How many (if any) of the candidates are being encouraged to run by the pro-Sargsyan camp is unknown.
It’s also impossible to know how much lower the voter turnout will be until February. There is evidence that a percentage of Prosperous Armenia supporters won’t vote, but it’s not clear how large that number will actually be.
A few repats are holding an event called Imagine Armenia. The core idea of the event is “What does Armenia mean to you?” Hopefully people will think that Armenia is a place and a people to engage as partners and not merely as the “the old country” or a post-soviet plutocracy. To get a good dose of the reality of living in Armenia—and see how you can engage with the real Armenia—you should come to the event in Los Angeles on the 28th at 7pm at 3245 Casita Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039.
The Society Without Violence NGO has put out a thorough review of Gevorgyan’s story from initial abuse to the final court verdict. It mentions some passing words from the defendant’s family that imply that the family called in favors to subvert the court case. There is no real evidence of that, but I would not be surprised if that happened.
In the mean time, the Institute of War and Peace Reporting recently wrote on the current status of the draft domestic violence law. A draft bill is out for public comment, but the progress is still quite slow.
It was already almost certain that the current President would win reelection in February. Now there won’t even be a realistic challenge. The head of Prosperous Armenia party (PAP), Gagik Tsarukyan, announced that he wasn’t running and that PAP won’t endorse any candidate. Without the second largest party promoting a candidate, only the opposition—which won 7% of the popular vote in May—is running a candidate.
On the plus side, since the outcome is already determined, it’s possible that this will be the cleanest and most proper election ever.
Update: Unsurprisingly, it’s believed that Tsarukyan and Sargsyan struck a deal for PAP to step out of the election. Tert is reporting that they made a deal to develop a new coalition and replace Yerevan’s current mayor with someone a little more friendly.
As I mentioned in the Pause in the Posting post, I have been working on a response to the Urgent Call for electoral reforms. I finished the response and it’s been published in Hetq. I wrote the response because I felt the NGOs critique of the electoral system was too narrow and focused on the wrong issue. Yes there are many election irregularities, but those irregularities aren’t large enough to change the election results. Yet, public trust in the government is around 12-13%. I argue that the public doesn’t trust the government because it doesn’t trust the institutions of the government. Make the institutions trustworthy, especially vis-a-vis elections, and people will trust the government.
Check out the article here.
Today, December 10th, is international Human Rights Day! The UN General Assembly passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The Universal Declaration was the first international statement declaring that every single human being has rights and listing those core rights.
The idea of human rights requires constant struggle. As time progresses, societies realize new rights, new spheres of life where the government has limited legitimacy to intrude. At each step, the people demand more respect from their government and the government will resist the loss of power. In the beginning, human rights demanded that the government merely not intrude on the life of its citizens unjustly such as through arbitrary arrest. Over time, societies realized that their governments were not a discrete agent but a representative for the people and thus had obligations to the people such as providing education or ensuring the people can feed themselves. These demands for greater respect and responsiveness will only continue, even if the path backtracks at time.
Today is a good day to remember what you have and be grateful for it. Whether you live in a human rights paradise or in a dictatorship that doesn’t respect the basic freedoms of speech and religion or freedom from fear and want, enjoy what you have. And, after that momentary reflection, reflect on those rights that are not respected, in other societies and your own, and how you can continue the struggle.
The trial against Mariam Gevorgyan’s abuser has come to an end. Gevorgyan was abused by her husband and mother-in-law before escaping and suing them in court. The husband was protected as part of the blanket amnesty by the President making the mother-in-law the only perpetrator Gevorgyan could go after in court. That case ended recently with a sentence of four years for the mother-in-law. Unfortunately, the President’s amnesty commutes the sentence down to one year.
Gevorgyan’s case was one of the first domestic violence cases where the victim fought for justice all the way through the court system and “won.” Even with her hollow victory, her case is the first of what will be many. When the domestic violence law is finished next year, undoubtedly more cases will be brought as victims will have more legal tools available to them.
I apologize for the lack of updates. I’m currently doing a lot of moving and will finally be settled down on Wednesday. In the mean time, please read an Urgent Call for Election Law reform drafted by a number of NGOs including the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office and the Transparency International Anti-corruption Center. I like the content of the reforms the NGOs suggest, but I think they’re missing the bigger issue; even with the suggested reforms, elections in Armenia will still not be viewed as legitimate or “free and fair.” More to come in the next post.