“Do you think Raffi is showing good judgment by challenging the election and getting people out in the streets, or is it more self motivated towards his own ends and needs”
A very close friend of mine sent me this question, knowing that I follow things somewhat closely. I think its an excellent question, and in fact, much more complex than it initially seems, as it makes and exposes certain key statements and assumptions that are worthy of discussion. (please note, i just threw this together, please excuse any typos, and addendum i may fix/add later)
1. “using good judgment”
a) I’m not sure whether not challenging the election was an option. There were obviously significant violations both before and during the elections. Despite that, Raffi’s final official percentage surprised everyone, including him. Would not challenging the election have been an option? Once he chose to be a candidate, with the platform and statements he made about changes he would make, especially regarding fraud, corruption, etc, was not challenging an option? Aside from being completely hypocritical, his political career in Armenia would have been dead forever.
b) What about the “good judgment” of getting people out in the streets? Well, it seems that if change is going to come about, even if it were to be a compromise with the regime, then Raffi would have to show the backing of the people. Perhaps Sargsyan would have met him even if there weren’t thousands in the streets behind him, and he can challenge the decision of the CEC without people in the streets, but the likelihood of anything happening without popular visible support would be even less than it is now.
c) the most obvious response, of course, to this initial question, is, is it possible to be a candidate who truly believes in democracy, experience such massive falsifications and fraud, and not do anything? Is it possible to be a citizen who is truly hoping to move forward toward democracy, and do nothing in a case such as this?
d) now none of this means that he is challenging the election and getting people out in the streets in the best possible way. There are steps it seems he has yet to take that would be beneficial, and his overall plan, or what seems to be a lack of one, is concerning. The latter point is extremely important, and asked throughout Armenia by even his supporters. Sometimes especially his supporters.
e) the next step in this question, is in the phrasing of “using good judgment.” Because that implies that there may be a problem, perhaps a risk, in doing what he is doing. Now, I don’t know exactly what my friend had in mind when he asked the question. But I suppose there are two main downsides that my friend may be considering:
1—the security of the people: this is a very common and critical concern, especially because of the events of March 1, 2008 and the events which followed. Even if Sargsyan is not willing to use violence, he is not the only deciding force. Many from different circles I have spoken with think this may be why he is not setting up a camp in Liberty Square. And it’s a good concern. There is always some degree of risk when opposition gathers in Liberty Square, and the larger, more vocal the crowd, the more they grow and the longer they stay, the greater the risk. One can only guess that part of the reason he sends people home every night is because of the concern of safety. But this act of sending people home is very disheartening to his supporters – I see it on their faces, here it spoken every few meters as I walk through the square. Which brings me to the point below…
2—the morale of the people: what happens if this comes to naught? What happens if after all of this, protests, challenges, everything, things for the mostpart stay the same? Sure, some say that this will move civil society forward in Armenia, and of course it will, to some extent. But there is also a hopelessness and inertness that comes in the general population from being lifted and dropped. This is potentially quite dangerous.
2. “is it more self motivated”
a. Now, Raffi is definitely motivated, of that there is no question; he has been motivated to become president since the 1990s. And he has worked hard to that end. And yes, he seems to be self-motivated… but I think my friend was getting at the next part…
3. “towards his own ends and needs”
a. Raffi does want to be president, and I would argue that he wants to make his mark in history, but there is nothing wrong with that. Many of us do in our own way.
b. But I think perhaps my friend is asking, especially in the context of the question, is whether there is an internal drive in Raffi which obstructs him from seeing the risks, or issues, which can arise from his challenge. I am not in his mind so I can’t really answer that. I do believe that Raffi wants to see a better, stronger, more just, Armenia. I don’t believe that his approach, especially to foreign policy, is the answer, and in fact I believe his approach is potentially destructive, but that’s not the what we’re discussing here. Actually, it is relevant, because that same drive that guides him to demand reparations, genocide recognition and NKR recognition as foreign policy, I believe, blinds him to why addressing those things, now, as he does, is not in Armenia’s best interests. And perhaps whatever drives him to take that stance in his foreign policy, that internal drive, is also driving him now.
I think the results caught everyone including Raffi by surprise. I think he responded and acted, but I do not know if there is a plan. Given that many of his own supporters have similar questions, it is not clear how long this will continue.
To move forward, to have gone forward, and to continue to do so, means that something is driving things, for the sake of this question, driving Raffi, forward. Sometimes we know something is Right, and it is that vision of Right which drives us. We see Right, but we don’t know how to get there – because we are lost, overwhelmed, unprepared, naïve, or just don’t have an answer.
But when we are responsible for or lead others, the calculations must change. Any step forward, even when driven by a vision of what is Right, must be countered by responsibilities and risks. To not have that counterbalance present in the plan, or not to have a plan at all, is a sign of either blind and arguable dangerous adherence to a vision, or being driven by other, often internal, forces.
To move forward without a plan would be reckless. And if things do move forward, people continue to gather, protests continue in large numbers, and a clear plan does not crystalize, visible or not to the rest of us, then things could become quite concerning.
But if he can move forward, with a plan, and mobilize, unite and lead, it could be something truly incredible for the electoral process, for democracy and human rights in Armenia…
What it would mean for the foreign policy, peace and security of Armenia, that concerns me.