Tuesday, 25 September

Armenia: Elections Now, Not Later - Why Not Use the Constitution?

By Vahan Bournazian

To build democracy for tomorrow, as well as for today, we need to build rule of law by practicing the rules.

If we don’t start this time, we may end up having to use demonstrations and private negotiations brokered by foreign powers each time the people want change.

Real sovereignty comes by making decisions for ourselves, by ourselves, and in a way that is all-inclusive.  Such frameworks, like elections, are developed when practiced, and we build rule of law in general by following the rules.

The Armenian Constitution provides for extraordinary elections when the National Assembly cannot elect a Prime Minister (Const. Art. 92 & 149). 

Although the National Assembly might be able to elect a Prime Minister at this point, it would be better if they didn’t and couldn’t (hint).  If the National Assembly does elect a Prime Minister, then Constitutionally there cannot be any extraordinary elections (unless later the Programme of the Government is not accepted by the National Assembly).  The Constitution does not provide for any “interim government”. Why make up frameworks ad hoc which don’t exist, and exactly for what purpose? The Constitution does not provide for extraordinary elections if there is a Prime Minister. Why delay a poll of the will of all the people?

The Electoral Code, reviewed again and again by experts, is sufficient, and time is of the essence.  The issue has never been the law but rather its lack of implementation.

In today’s environment it is less likely that a person will “sell their vote” than if we wait six months or a year.  In today’s environment it is more likely that a person will go to vote, and will stand up for their rights, by filing a complaint if someone else has signed the registry by their name, or by reporting abuses that they might witness.  In today’s environment there are more than enough enthusiastic observers, and political parties should have trained and motivated proxies. Call for and agree to a new composition of the Central Electoral Commission but know that just as fast as this wave of popularism has come, it could be subdued.

Lastly, no political party is the state, and to speak and act as if one party is, is self-defeating. 

How we articulate our reality is what our reality becomes.

Calling for a political party to give-up state power negates Article 2, which states that power resides with the people.  Implying that all state officials and employees are no more than party agents negates the individualism that we have seen in the demonstrations where people of all segments of society joined together for a cause greater than themselves.

The alternative is to make Article 2 real by speaking and acting in conformity with it.  The alternative is to judge state officials as individuals based on their competence, and not to engage in stereotyping and guilt by association.  The alternative is to hold elections instead of declaring that demonstrations reflective the people’s will, while at the same time excluding from “the people” the vast majority of people:  while many have participated in the demonstrations, the majority have not, and we don’t know their choice.

What happened to “no vendettas” and starting society anew with a “clean slate”? 

To create an inclusive society, where individuals are free to express themselves, discuss and construct shared values, and act honorably in compliance with law, the “clean slate” must be now and for all. 

Demand a new Central Electoral Commission.  Demand that the President call for extraordinary elections.

Hold ourselves to our Constitution. Or in the future we’ll end up with private power negotiations brokered by foreign interests again.

(Born in California, Vahan Bournazian has lived in Yerevan since 2004. He teaches human rights and conducts research.)

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Comments (5)
1. Vahan16:57 - 26 April, 2018
Even if Pashinyan or anyone else is elected PM, how would the Electoral Code be amended considering that the majority in parliament is held by the HHK? How could the Electoral Code be amended before the Programme of Government is presented (within 20 days) and rejected (within 7 days)? If there is a PM this must happen before there can be elections. Why rely on informal guarantees instead of investing in process now?
2. Viken20:34 - 26 April, 2018
Mr. Bournazian is absolutely correct and expresses my preoccupations. Claims by Mr. Pashinian that there will be no vendettas are already questioned with the multitude of orators expressing their grievances against this and that official...and what is most important in all of this is to respect the rule of law, otherwise tomorrow another entity (fairly large group of citizens) will descend to the streets and request the resignation of such and such... I don't know much about the commentator's (Vahan) concern about amendment of the electoral code. Is that the culprit in the election results? I wonder.
3. Vahe Gyulnazaryan23:53 - 28 April, 2018
Mr. Bournazian, thank you for your insight and healthy dose of skepticism. We should definitely not attribute absolute authority to one figure as this will corrupt them. Then the question arises, is the current Armenian government able to guarantee free and fair elections? I would like to hear which components of the electoral process have been proven to be problematic and how are they to be addressed? The victory belongs to the people and we agree on not allowing more time for the HHK to sell out Armenia due to the perception of pending prosecution. We must live and let live but they must allow that process to start. As for support, I am pretty a vast majority are sympathatetic to Nikol right now. We need an interim PM to usher free and fair elections, there is no one in the forefront other then NP, who was lying down in front of serzhiks buses a week ago.
4. Vahe Gyulnazaryan01:13 - 29 April, 2018
-I don't encourage anyone to vote on emotion and without a plan. -We should allow political strategies to be developed and presented, prior to any election. - Can not assume that only implementation is the problem, the problem should be assessed accurately first before any remedies prescribed.
5. Vahe Bastian07:28 - 29 April, 2018
Certainly take one's time to consider the best options, however bear in mind the vultures just outside our borders are are giving just enough time and rope to NP to hang himself with it. Demonstrations are all well and good, but if they don't materialize into practical politics, political dialogue and negotiations soon, they will just remain as demonstrations, and if greedy egos take over again, we will not have moved forward at all ! All talents must be put to good use, we are all Armenians, and we all want the best for our country, and though our heads are in the clouds dreaming, our feet must be firmly on the ground !
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