Sunday, May 1, 2011

What are our options?

After much pondering and talking with friends, I have yet to come to a definitive conclusion about the ongoing political issues in Armenia – most important among which are the morphing relations between the various parties. But I’ve managed to break it down in a way that makes sense to me.
I think there are three main ways to deal with the situation in Armenia – so here it goes:

1) Do nothing. The default – over time, if there are dwindling numbers at demonstrations (regardless of who holds them), if there is a feeling of loss of hope, faith, energy, whatever, this is what happens: Nothing. Things continue as they are.

2) Do everything. Outright revolution. People are tired of increasing prices, corruption, army deaths, mass emigration, oligarchs – you name it. Some critical number gathers, and then use drastic means to oust the criminal-oligarchic regime. Violence and bloodshed included. They’re gone, but then who takes over, how is that decided? Is there a new system in place that will work automatically? Are there examples in recent or historical times where revolution is followed quickly and easily by a system that works, without years of continued work/dedication for change? And, in Armenia’s case, now, do we have the manpower for revolution? Are there enough people to do that, willing to risk everything?
It’s pretty obvious that I think neither of these are an option right now. So we’re left with…

3) Something in the middle. But what is that? I suppose it’s every form of pressure to get what you want to happen except physical – financial, social, psychological, and it may include discussion. So, while option #1 is basically the lack of any goal, and option #2 just requires a goal of immediate, drastic change, option #3 requires specific goals and targets that keep in mind the ultimate goal - which for me, is regime change for the purpose of improving the wellbeing of the citizens of Armenia, and ensuring the safety and security of Armenia. Once we have those specific proximate goals, then we work towards them. And if we reject #2, then is there any other way to institute regime change than by new elections?

And that’s where we are now. The only realistic and consistent demands I’ve seen put forth are by HAK. They’ve got a set of goals, prioritized as a precondition to discourse with Sargsyan, and are already partway through the prioritized ones.

Now, this is where things get difficult. There a lot of rumors nowadays that HAK has already started to discuss deals with SS, even before the 3 goals are complete. I don’t think this is the case. I think as many have pointed out, they’re playing chess, trying to force each other’s hands. Once the 3 priorities are met, only then will true discussions start.

And why is Sargsyan interested now? Increasing internal and international pressure, for one. Ditord concisely outlined some of the similarities between SS and LTP in areas where SS could really use LTP’s help – especially with regards to NK, Turkey, and internal policies.

So what happens if SS and HAK start to talk, and demands continue to be met? Might the two- working in opposition to each other but moving forward - be able to make a serious dent in the oligarchies in place, in the corruption, in establishing stability, and solving so many of the other problems? Is it possible to even work with SS to get rid of the oligarchies when he himself is so heavily mired in them? Is there a way to have free and fair elections when this regime is still in power (if there isn’t, and there are no alternative mechanisms as I asked in #3, then we’re stuck)?

And IF the answer to these is yes, and negotiations start and progress continues, then I am left asking myself if I’m okay with that IF it means Sargsyan gets off scot free, as thinking ahead, that is one possible outcome – Sargsyan’s freedom for true change and progress in Armenia. Because my first reaction, to tell the truth, to the idea of Sargsyan getting away with everything, was one of severe nausea. But the more I think about it, the more I think, let’s keep in mind the ultimate goals, and the options ahead of us. And if our ultimate goals are for the people and Republic of Armenia, then while I really think Sargsyan deserves something drastically opposite to getting off scot free, the trade may be worth it – maybe I’m more willing to compromise for the “good” of Armenia than my initial gut reaction. And, by the way, for me that “good” includes bringing Kocharyan to justice for March 1.

In the meantime, this is what we have. None of the options or players today are perfect. But, I don’t see any other way than the steps being taken by HAK now. As disappointed as part of me was that on April 28 there wasn’t more action taken, I think it was a calculated step – Sargsyan has taken some steps, and it needed to be and was acknowledged by HAK. BHK’s statement that they will NOT be supporting HHK in the next parliamentary elections coming so soon after Sargsyan’s order to investigate March 1 was not a coincidence; Sargsyan is paying a price for his move towards HAK. At the same time, he is playing the time card. Everyone is calculating and hedging their bets. Patience is painful but necessary. I keep asking, is there another option, but I have yet to come up with one.

And hey, if some other opposition group can put forth a logical plan and put pressure on the regime and force it to meet their demands, I want to hear about it right now - the more strong, critically thinking opposition groups the better. Nobody is stopping them. But all I’ve seen from the leadership of Zharangutyun so far are “demands” that read like the wish list of an 8 year old diasporan Armenian drawing the tricolor over Massis with crayons, and more rhetoric and hypocrisy from the ARF that’s not even worth detailing.

Every time I go through it in my head, I don’t like the idea of Sargsyan finagling his way out of his guilt, and have infinite questions about how to change things. But given that options #1 and #2 are not acceptable, then pressure and even negotiations are what we have. And for right now, the steps being taken by HAK are the only option I see that will help Armenia down this difficult path.


Anonymous said...

From your mouth to God's ear, Tzitzernak.
However, I think option #2 was a better option. I use "was" because it should have happened in 2008 March. Many have lost hope in HAK.More so on April 28. Sargsyan, in my opinion, is a camillion. I really do not trust him. He is deep in s..t with Kocharyan and the others , I don't know what he will do. As for him getting scot free, well, I don't like that idea either.
As for your question that if there were a revolution, is there a ruling party that will replace the ousted one? Let me ask you this: with option #3, is there a leader who will replace this corrupt one and will the transition be smoother as opposed to option #2? I think the transition is not going to be smooth either way. I am thinking of Gandhi and the British forces etc..
I also wish the best for Armenia.I hope it comes sooner than later.
As to your question

Ani said...

Yes, Tzitzernak, you’ve outlined the situation very well, and you’re right, there are no easy choices. Just a few observations of mine from the sidelines. As far as the talk of a “deal,” I really don’t think that’s the case. Rather, what I think has happened is a mutual realization from both sides of how destructive an uprising such as has been seen in Egypt, (or worse, Syria) would be—a state as fragile, isolated, and depopulated (not to mention at war) as Armenia can ill afford any more violence. And since there are more radical and impatient dissident elements surfacing, it is in the interest of both to hammer out some compromises now before things take an unpredictable turn for the worse.

It does seem to me that the government has softened its positions far more than the opposition; in fact, I don’t see that the Congress has even changed its demands. By persevering and creating a solid base these past three years, the Congress has now gained enough respect, legitimacy, and authority, even without any voting power whatsoever, that Sargsyan knows he will get pushback and criticism on every decision and policy. Sargsyan also has lost the enthusiasm of many Diasporan apologists (and their money), and the foreign policy gambit he played to gain European and American support has fizzled embarrassingly. Therefore, he is slowly making concessions, as few as possible in a tawdry political Vernissage, trying to see how little he can get away with to preserve his power. And of course as the gambler he is, he is also hoping to see the enthusiasm drain from the opposition. So that makes it even more imperative that those who want to see true change come not relax or lose heart or patience. Keep chiseling away at the chiseller, and struggle, struggle…

tzitzernak2 said...

Dear Sismassis,
I agree that March 2008 was the time for #2, if there ever was one. Now is not the time. Even after March 2008, perhaps massive sit-ins, with tens of thousands, would have made a difference. Perhaps those would now, too. There is no easy solution, and since they are both very difficult, i prefer the path of nonviolence. I do think there is a qualitative difference between Sargsyan and Kocharyan, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

Adrineh said...

"And why is Sargsyan interested now?" Upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections maybe? It's all a game and the players are slowly figuring out their next moves and placing one piece at a time on the chess board. That's the extent of my two cents for now, I'm afraid :)

Observer said...

I had bookmarked this for reading and kept postponing it (it looked like a long text, lol). Today I finally read through the whole thing.

Very interesting analysis and I have to say, I've gone through some of the same thinking process and decided in favor of your option #3, even though there are aspects I don't like either.

As for the "political chess" part, I'm more inclined to think, that negotiations have already started.

I had that feeling first on March 17, when Ter-Petrossian said he won't speak at the rally near Matenadaran, but will make his remarks in the Liberty square. It was as though he had solid guarantees, that he'll be allowed to hold the rally there.

Further developments only seem to confirm this feeling. And you know what - I see nothing wrong with possible negotiations, as long as the end-result is good for the people.

But that's where I have my doubts.