Outside Eye: A non-Armenian’s view of life in his adopted home

ArmeniaNow.com, 2 April 2004

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian’s view of life in his adopted home

By John Hughes
ArmeniaNow Editor

I’ve just returned from Tbilisi, where Georgia’s political air is fresh with
change and promises being fulfilled by an opposition’s hero. Returned to
Yerevan, where the pollution of threat is about as much as this “Opposition”
can muster, relying on names that are now sunk by whatever weight they might
once have carried.

Not since last year’s presidential elections has there been any public
demonstration of discontent against Robert Kocharyan’s government. In his
sixth year at the helm the Ship of State has sailed mostly smoothly, if one
ignores the considerable fact that it has left many behind in its voyage
toward prosperity.

But there is excitement in this capital today. Arrests are being made.
Beatings appear connected to efforts to discourage an uprising. Phrases such
as “change of power” are making sound bites and copy.

Now, the opposition is again doing what it does best: opposing. And
achieving what it does most effectively: nothing.

After failing a year ago to build a platform that supported change, the
opposition is again calling for revolution, with no clear direction toward
which it would lead one.

Let’s say that, like the revolution by their neighbors last autumn, this
opposition charged into Parliament (as they are somewhat subtly threatening)
and took over. Then what?

It’s a question I posed to young, bright friends here – adults who are not
satisfied with current leadership, but who are not inspired by the
opposition’s impotence and inability to unify itself, much less a nation.

One of the twenty-somethings repeated a commonly held view that: “Armenia
doesn’t have an opposition. It only has those who are in power, and those
who were formerly in power.”

And the currently in power must surely realize that last year’s crooked
elections were hardly a mandate of the people, so they appear to be taking
the opposition’s threats seriously, no matter that the growl comes from a
toothless predator.

Government efforts to quell these new rumblings only legitimize so much
empty rhetoric, and reveal the small-mindedness of leaders who probably
should be kicked out, but hold their posts by default.

If you’ve followed previous opinions on this page, you know that views here
have been far from complimentary of the presently empowered. But: Who is
served by a movement in which discontent masquerades as policy?

Left without resistance what would the opposition do?

As close as it came to winning last year’s election was to put up a
candidate who was thought to be a mirror of his adored father but turned out
only to be a shadow. Now he and others of unproven leadership ability are
asking the masses to follow them through the gates of revolt to . . . where?

Georgia ‘s “Rose Revolution” proved that discontent can produce change.
Already, new leadership there is taking action against wrongdoing of the
previous administration.

But among Armenia’s opposition, the goal seems merely to be to empty the
First Chair and then hope for someone to fill it.

Sometime within the coming days, Marshal Baghramian Avenue will be blocked
by villagers bussed in to Yerevan to demand their rights for better
leadership. And they probably deserve it. But there is little reason to
believe that the “Faux Revolution” would achieve anything more than revolt.