Weekly readers are surely aware of Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for December 9. These elections promise to decisively alter the country’s political landscape, hopefully toward one that is more open, inclusive, just and transparent.
Clearly, we are living in momentous times.
But while an air of optimism possesses most of us, there are more than a few who harbor concerns as well. Some observers point to the spotty record of acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his interim government, which at times have spoken more than they’ve delivered during their seven-month reign. More broadly, there appears to be some slippage between Pashinyan-the-activist and Pashinyan-the-statesman; the former, who won our admiration with his daring and successful acts of resistance and mass mobilization, and the latter, whose governance has yet to display a consistent, farsighted path forward.
The ARF is among those harboring such caution, emphasizing especially foreign policy and national security concerns. It is not yet clear, for instance, whether and how Pashinyan will pursue the Karabagh issue in all its different forms. Nor is it clear how he will align Armenia internationally, especially in its geopolitical orientation. For despite some encouraging pronouncements, Pashinyan’s team has also left real questions on how it would defend the country’s borders and interests amid turbulent waters.
Let us be clear: There is no question of turning back. The old regime is gone and cannot be allowed to return.
Similarly, there are concerns regarding social and cultural outlook. For while the new regime’s calls for openness are laudable, once again there are questions – this time over whether its (neo)liberal leanings outweigh its adherence to nationalism as a core value.
As a party that has long sought justice as well as security for Armenians, the ARF cannot take such issues lightly. And largely for these reasons, the party has chosen to participate in the upcoming elections – not as part of any bloc or coalition – but on its own, standing on its core principles and asserting the need to question rather than blindly follow.
Let us be clear: There is no question of turning back. The old regime is gone and cannot be allowed to return. But as for what lies ahead, there is some uncertainty. In this light, a respectable showing by the ARF and other constructive opposition groups would help bolster Armenia’s newfound openness, as we seek to build a more robust democracy that admits to multiple voices and concerns. We commend the basis for such a campaign and trust that the electorate will do so as well.
Months ago, our people accomplished something transformative. Through genuine, nonviolent mass mobilization, they have opened up the country to the possibility of real change. In this new reality, these elections will hopefully become a watershed moment, charting an irreversible course toward democracy, justice and prosperity. In all of this, there is an important role for the ARF and other healthy critics in Armenia, as we turn the page and start anew, amidst a spirit of renewal, dialogue and constructive debate.