Mensoian: Translating the ARF Roadmap to Regime Change into Action (Part II)

The roadmap to regime change is a response to conditions that were crystallized by the recently signed protocols which represent the first step in the process of rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey. The ARF has properly viewed these documents as being detrimental to Armenia’s present and future national interests. In response to this assessment, the party has announced its formal opposition to the protocols. In Part I an explanation was offered as to how the ARF can deliver on its roadmap to regime change. Although this is a gargantuan task for which the ARF has the necessary experience to undertake, it is the how of the undertaking that is crucial. The response by the ARF, if it is to be effective, must be multi-faceted in its objectives and multi-operational in its implementation. The use of demonstrations and rallies within Armenia and throughout the Armenian Diaspora are means to address the first objective: to prevent ratification of the protocols by the Armenian Parliament. The need for an informat
ion gathering and distribution system, and the convening of conferences where the objectives of the roadmap are presented to selected audiences, were suggested as vital components of the effort at regime change. The need to develop a program that would assist journalists, legislators, advocacy leaders, and businessmen to hear and view firsthand the conditions in Javakhk and to understand the how and why of the Karabaghtsis’ demand for independence were discussed.

Part II considers the remaining two objectives of the roadmap: a viable socio-economic program and preparing for the forthcoming elections. The need to create a cadre of field workers to develop grassroots support for the ARF’s initiatives to improve the standard of living of the workers and their families, and to win their support for the ARF candidates for president and parliament in the forthcoming elections, is an absolute necessity to ensure a reasonable certainty of success.

The program to improve the quality of life of the worker and his family must be doable and not campaign pie-in-the-sky rhetoric that will appeal only to the most desperate members of society. Again, the participation of Armenian men and women with expertise in the fields of education, medical delivery systems, agrarian reform, housing, rural infrastructure, etc. must be enlisted to formulate practical programs that are not only on target, but can be achieved with the limited resources that will be initially available. Promising more than can be delivered is anathema to the long-term support that the ARF requires. The Armenian worker has become cynical by having relied on too many promises made and not kept. The inadequacies of the oligarchic Sarkisian government in failing to include the workers in an equitable sharing of the wealth that they have produced must be relentlessly hammered home. More importantly, the ARF must explain—point by point—how the Sarkisian Administration’s failures will be effectively a
ddressed by the program proposed by the ARF to improve the workers’ quality of life.

The remaining objectives demand that the ARF prepares for the forthcoming Armenian parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The ARF must begin the task of selecting viable candidates for president and parliament. These potential candidates must become the face of this roadmap to regime change. They should become household names and faces, and appear at rallies, demonstrations, and conferences. The presidential candidate must tour the diaspora explaining why the roadmap to regime change is important for Armenia’s political viability, how it will be implemented, and its relationship to the legitimate objectives of Hai Tahd (the Armenian Cause). The candidate’s presence should be used to raise funds to underwrite what will be an expensive program if regime change is to be achieved. The presidential candidate should meet with sympathetic journalists, business leaders, advocacy leaders, and legislators (especially members of the United States Congressional Armenian Caucus) wherever
the ARF has influence in the diaspora.

Winning the presidency must be viewed as achievable. Should the party fail to elect the president, at the very least the ARF must win a sufficient number of parliamentary seats to be able to advance its legislative program for the benefit of the citizens and the state. Working from a position of strength within the administration (assuming the ARF is not the administration) is more effective than working outside the government structure. However, being part of the administration has its potential liabilities should the ARF be unable to deliver on its program or is cast as part of the problems that continue to persist. In a related note, the ARF’s recent participation in the Sarkisian Administration did not earn it any accolades.

The Sarkisian Administration must be aggressively attacked on its record of having failed to improve the condition of workers and their families; on having failed to ensure the basic norms of free, democratic elections; of having failed to have Karabagh recognized as a member of the negotiation process; and of having failed to effectively represent to the Georgian government the issues confronting the Javakheti Armenians. This is a battle for the political survival of the jomeland (Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk) for a better day for workers and their families and for the Armenian Cause. There will be no second chance. Given the enormity of what is at stake, no one should doubt that the present administration and its supporters will seek to create obstacles to hinder the ARF from holding political rallies, having access to television time and media coverage, and importantly, organizing grassroots support. The ARF must be prepared to respond immediately and effectively to any counter efforts by Yerevan, Ankara,
and possibly by the Minsk Group should attempts be made to undermine its efforts at regime change.

Organizing grassroots support is a vital component in gaining the necessary public support for the ARF’s roadmap to regime change and to ensure voter support for its candidates in the forthcoming elections. Winning the “heart and soul” of the Armenian worker and his family is a sine qua non if there is any hope of achieving this fundamental change. The results of the parliamentary election in 2007 (winning 16 of 131 seats) and the presidential election of 2008 (where the ARF candidate received under 7 percent of the total votes cast) indicate what needs to be done if regime change is to be successful. To sell its program and to develop the required grassroots support required for electoral victories, the ARF must train a cadre of paid field representatives who will live and work with the people they seek to influence. Their pay would be in the form of a stipend in addition to required expenses for travel, food, and lodging, which would also be underwritten by the party. Working in pairs for moral support and
safety (should that become a factor), these field workers could live with local families who would in turn receive payment for their room and board. The ARF field representatives must be properly trained, provided with relevant materials, and adequately monitored and supported.

It is vital that these field representatives operate under the supervision of district committees for each of Armenia’s 10 districts and the capital district of Yerevan. Monthly progress reports would be filed by each team with their respective district committee, who would then file a summary report to be sent to the Central Committee. The Central Committee would compile a summary report for distribution to ARF regional central committees and from there to their local gomidehs. Appropriate authorities would decide what material would be released for public distribution. Being informed is a key requirement to keep members and all segments of the Armenian community within the homeland and the diaspora energized. These field workers would be on the front line and would form an indispensible component in implementing the roadmap. The field workers would be responsible for explaining the roadmap’s objectives, to link the inadequacies of the present administration with the solutions proposed by the ARF, and to gai
n support for the ARF candidates for parliament and president in the forthcoming elections.

The republic is at a critical moment in its history. The roadmap for regime change demands a full scale offensive that requires harnessing human resources and fund raisingefforts far beyond anything the ARF has ever attempted.

It must be recognized that Armenia is being pressured to normalize relations with a government whose leaders remain unrepentant and as anti-Armenian as their political progenitors who carried out the systematic murder of some 1.5 million innocent Armenian men, women, and children using the most heinous methods conceivable. The protocols are documents that speak to Turkish interests, are supported by the Minsk Group (France, Russia, and the United States), and are detrimental to Armenia’s interests—dismissive of the injustices expressed in Hai Tahd and contemptuous of Armenia’s sovereignty. That should be sufficient to motivate any Armenian.

Michael Mensoian

Michael Mensoian

Michael Mensoian, J.D./Ph.D, is professor emeritus in Middle East and political geography at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a retired major in the U.S. army. He writes regularly for the Armenian Weekly.

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