Undemocratic Democracy

Of course, it is very difficult for them [= the other candidates] because members of the Republican Party today are leaders in more than 70 percent of local government bodies across Armenia. And no matter how much they say that this is due to the use of government resources, I can never agree with that. People there waged political struggle and got into leadership positions. And why shouldn’t they use their leadership — I mean their prestige — for their political party or for ensuring the victory of their party’s leader? ― Serzh Sargsyan (source: RFERL)

The problem with the Armenian Presidential Elections is not that Prosperous Armenia and ANC don’t participate. The problem is also not so much that there are no “alternatives”. Let’s take for instance Raffi Hovhannisian, Paruyr Hayrikyan or Hrant Bagratyan ― for me they are far from being the ideal presidential candidate. But aren’t they good enough to be alternatives to Serzh Sargsyan? Sargsyan isn’t the ideal president for Armenia either, is he? Proof? Here is one: all the other candidates have more likes on Facebook than the running president. He isn’t very popular indeed and yet few doubt that he is going to be reelected on 18 February.

So what is the problem then? The problem is, I think, our democratic system. I would prefer to call it an undemocratic democracy. That is to say, a democracy which allows candidates and parties being (re)elected even if few people like them, and which on the other hand makes it very difficult or almost impossible for people to change their Government.

(Photo: Araratmagazine)

And the problem, indeed, starts from municipal elections. The ruling party has much power and its candidates win in the municipal elections. Non-partisan or opposition candidates are mostly unable to compete. Then in the parliamentary and presidential elections mayors and aldermen of municipalities use their influence to assure victory for their party/sponsors.

It’s all that simple.

Many people were disappointed when Prosperous Armenia declared not to run for the presidential elections. I saw some tweeps writing on Twitter: this is going to be the most boring elections in Armenian history. Why were they disappointed? Because they hoped that if an “oligarch” would run for the elections or if he supported one of the candidates, maybe something could be changed. A little bit like the last elections in Georga.

But this isn’t the way I want to make a change in my country. I want a democratic system where it is very easy to change your Government or the ruling party. But where it is extremely difficult to win the elections if most people in your country don’t like you.

And for this end, we need much more than a “fair” voting process. We need to change our Undemocratic Democracy. Our democratic system must assure that no one ― members of local or national authorities, teachers, “oligarchs” ― absolutely nothing will influence municipal, parliamentary or presidential elections.

As long as that doesn’t happen this democracy causes more trouble than anything good.

What you can’t expect from your government

We cannot expect a government to say to children: “You are going to have a life in a world full of mass movements, both religious and political, mass ideas, mass cultures (..). You are going to be pressured through all you life to join mass movements, and if you can resist this, you will be, every day, under pressure from various types of groups, often of your closest friends, to conform to them.

It will seem many times in you life that there is no point in holding out against these pressure, that you are not strong enough. But you are going to be taught how to examine these mass ideas, these apparently irresistible pressures, taught how to think for yourself, and to choose for yourself.

You will be taught to read history, so as to learn how short-lived ideas are, how apparently the most irresistible and persuasive ideas can, and do, vanish overnight.

You will be taught how to read literature, which is the study of mankind itself, as so to understand the development of people and peoples. Literature is a branch of anthropology, a branch of history: and we will make sure that you will know how to judge an idea from the point of view of long-term human memory (..).

To these studies will be added those new branches of information, the sciences of psychology, social psychology, sociology and so on, so that you may understand your own behavior, and the behavior of the group which will be, all your life, both your comfort and your enemy, both your support and your greatest temptation, since to disagree with your friends — you group animal — will always be painful.

You will be taught that no matter how much you have to conform outwardly — because the world you are going to live in often punishes unconformity with death — to keep your own being alive inwardly, your own judgment, your own thought…”

Doris Lessing, “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside”