Interview with expert of the Center for National and International Studies, political scientist Edgar Vardanyan
Edgar, is the campaign of 2012 different from the previous one? Are new technologies used or is there the consciousness to change anything in the country by way of elections?
First let me note that new technologies are not used during the campaign. In this sense, this campaign does not differ from the previous one but there are some new elements. The Prosperous Armenia Party which is part of the ruling coalition and signed the agreement to support the president in the 2013 presidential elections is now criticizing its coalition partners. The interesting thing is that the main critics are the newcomers of the PAP, namely Vartan Oskanian (who, by the way, doubts the fairness of the upcoming elections) and people who are on the PAP list but are not a member of the BHP, such as Gurgen Arsenyan. In general, the secondary pro-government forces have put on an opposition image in the election period but the strange thing here is that one of the main pro-government forces continues to criticize the ruling force, without leaving the coalition, without refusing to support the candidacy of the leader of the ruling political force.
Can this be just an imitation of a scenario written by the authorities?
There can be three options explaining this phenomenon. The authorities may have a shadow decision to send the PAP to the opposition which would try to win over the opposition votes through false opposition rhetoric, making the reproduction of the government easier. The part of the society which supports the opposition but does not support any of the opposition parties may vote for the PAP which, being a rich force with administrative levers and opposition behavior, may attract many votes. The second option is that this phenomenon is the result of internal governmental conflicts between the clans. In other words, there is disagreement inside the government where every group is trying to concentrate possibly more resources and hold more favorable positions in the system. In this case, the PAP, understanding that the opposition votes may help it in the RPA-OYP fight, skillfully entered into this game.
But there can be also a third version. It is not ruled out that part of the oligarchy does not like the RPA monopoly and tried to ruin it by playing with the protest moods of the society. By the way, hoping that they will be able to deceive everyone, people who really advocate democracy, as well as opportunists may join the game.
One more feature of this campaign is the situational alliances of various forces and their efforts to blacken each other’s name may be the consequence of the aforementioned “game”.
There is a common opinion that there is no alternative in this election.
The problem is other. The problem is not that the society is disappointed because it cannot find a normal program with a social and economic focus or worthy political figures. The society sees they will not find any means to hinder the mechanism-obstacles to fair elections so they consider their voting pointless. Or, reluctant to spoil relations with different levels of authorities they deal with, they are forced to vote for the ruling parties expecting material gain. Were the issue the lack of social-economic alternative or alternative political figures, people could just ruin the ballots and cause a serious political crisis. But people won’t believe everyone will spoil the ballots, or even if they do the government will find ways to rig the elections again. If the democratic institutions don’t work in the period before elections, if the society doesn’t create trouble for the government, during the elections, even if they are held without major breaches, the opposition will find it difficult to find resources for a winning atmosphere. So, the society needs to form a democratic movement before elections to form the basis for fair elections.
But there is no such force. Are such attempts possible at the civic level?
Different civic initiatives have the potential to form such a movement. There is an opinion that the civil activities are apolitical so they can’t initiate systemic changes and destroy the criminal-oligarchic system. I disagree. If a person sets a task, for example, to have the boutiques dismantled then they see during the fight that they are spoken the language of violence and understands that the issue is systemic, or their final goal will be to dismantle the illegal system in Armenia.