Why the Diaspora Lacks Leverages to Influence on the Decision-Making in Armenia

By Naira HAYRUMYAN
Journalist
Yerevan

 

A national state is considered today as the most urgent way in the world for organization of communities. The attempts to enlarge the national frameworks and build a state on the universal values still faces serious problems: this summer the leaders of the most tolerant cosmopolitan European countries were forced to admit that the multi-culturalism policy has failed and returned to the idea of the national state building.

 

Armenia and Artsakh in essence are nation-states, although their Constitutions guarantee the rights of all, regardless their nationality. The national nature of these two states supposes that not only the population of the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but also a part of the nation, living outside them, should take part in their governance. However, during 20 years of existence of Armenia and Artsakh, the nation has failed to create those institutional mechanisms that would let the 7-million strong Diaspora take part in the life of the 3-million Armenia and 150-thousand Artsakh.

Why is the Diaspora that has always provided invaluable support to Armenia and Artsakh is deprived of the possibility to take part in the decision-making process? Some might object, saying that the citizens of other countries have no right to interfere into the affairs of the others’ countries. But this would mean that we deny our compatriots, whose national feelings we often use, when asking for material assistance, from the possibility to improve and develop their homeland or, at least, monitor the use of their own funds.

 

In addition, what is bad in the interference of our compatriots as far as we speak about the building of national states, while the nation is the states plus Diaspora?

 

Several attempts have been made in the recent years to unite the organizations in Diaspora, now divided by parties and even ideologically. There have already been three pan-Armenia forums in Yerevan, the head of the Union of Armenians of Russia initiated creation of the World Congress of Armenians, but participants of all such meetings just made solemn statements about the trilateral unity of Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora and got back to their homes.

An attempt was made last spring in the United States to create a pan-Armenian forum, probably, for the first time raising the issue of the institutional participation of the Diaspora in the political life of Armenia. A number of proposals were put forward, including on establishing a permanent all-Armenian Congress to be vested with consultative or observing powers. There was also a proposal to provide some seats in the Armenian parliament for representatives of Diaspora.

On September 19-20 of this year a forum, organized by the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora, took place in Yerevan. After the forum news were spread about the possibility of providing quotas for representatives of the Diaspora, although no concrete mechanisms were mentioned.  Apparently, this issue has become so much topical that require quick solutions.

Why this issue is so much discussed? While the Diaspora is tacitly kept away from the problems in Armenia and Artsakh, about which they say as of the dead (“either good, or nothing”), this year a number of events have occurred at once to prove that the state is unable to solve all-national problems without consultations with Diaspora.

For the first time it was displayed when the President of Armenia Serj Sargsyan, following Moscow’s “advice,” decided to propose reconciliation to Turkey.  Such reconciliation supposed a number of national transformations and related not only to the residents of Armenia. In particular, the supposed recognition of the Turkish borders and refusal of the international recognition of the Genocide of Armenians would dispossess the Armenian people of the right for the century long claims and compensation. In addition, the reconciliation also supposed concessions in the Karabakh issue, and it related not only to the citizens of Armenia.

So the Diaspora for the first time showed that it had no intention to give up its rights in favor of the policy of the Armenian authorities.  Rallies with thousands of protesters took place in various countries, and Serj Sargsyan was met in Beirut and Paris in a manner, not appropriated to the president of a national state. Dashnaktsutyun Party, promoting national claims and uniting a substantial part of the Armenian people abroad, left the ruling coalition in Armenia. As a result of all this, the Armenian authorities did not dare to make obvious concessions, so the Armenian-Turkish protocols, signed by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, failed and Turkey blamed the Armenian Diaspora for it.

However, even at that moment it became clear that Diaspora has no leverages of influence regarding the Armenian authorities; and no one knows whether the Diaspora would been able to “dissuade” Serj Sargsyan, if the geopolitical solitaire had got any other shape.

The second symptomatic case happened in early autumn, when it was announced about the reception, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Armenian independence, to be organized by Serj Sargsyan in Los-Angeles on September 24. The Central Committee of the ARF Dashnaktsutyun of the U.S. West Coast unexpectedly made an unprecedented tough statement that they would refrain from taking part in the reception to be held by Serj Sargsyan. Despite the fact that the Dashnaktsutyun Party, being in opposition in Armenia, do not go beyond “correctness” in their criticism of the local authorities, the American Central Committee cut to pieces the policy of the current Armenian authorities, blaming them in oligarchization, monopolization of the economy and policy, corruption and other sins.

Probably, it is the first precedent when a structure from Diaspora publicly interfered into the policy of the Armenian authorities. But the statement of the Central Committee of the ARFD of the U.S. West Coast was not supported either by the other structures of the party, including in Armenia, or by the other public organizations. As far as the Diaspora lacks any institutional leverages of pressure regarding the Armenian authorities, the incident was settled in a “traditional” manner: quite soon the same Central Committee made another statement saying that they got an edited invitation, mentioning that the reception is organized not in the honor of Serj Sargsyan, but on the occasion of independence. Finally they decided to take part in the reception.

No doubt that Serj Sargsyan will receive the Dashnaktsakans as prodigal sons, but he has to expect new expressions of the special interest of Diaspora toward the policy of the Armenian authorities at every moment.

However, quite soon, at the Pan-Armenian Forum on September 19, Catholicos Aram I of the Holy Sea of Cilicia   blamed the authorities for the policy, causing emigration and devastation of Armenia. He was not supported by the Catholicos of all Armenians Garegin II or by the heads of organizations, gathered in the forum. However, nobody questioned the right of the Catholicos, living abroad, to “interfere” into the domestic affairs of the country.

Why does the Diaspora fail in creation of leverages to influence the decision-making process in Armenia and Artsakh? Many are inclined to think that it is because of the heterogeneity of the Diaspora itself, which finds it difficult to reconcile its own views on the mechanisms or even to come to a conclusion that such leverages are necessary. The others insist that the only obstacle is the lack of precedent, but we think that the problem lies within Armenia.

Do the Armenian authorities need a supranational body, capable to restrict the range of its freedom? The authorities in Armenia are obviously not ready to open the state for the nation, and especially, to share their powers. It is nobody’s secret that the presidential power in Armenia and Artsakh is almost absolute, meanwhile the parliament and other state institutes mostly play a nominal role, not taking part in making decisions on the equal basis. According to Armenian politicians, even unimportant issues are not solved without the President’s engagement. Against such a background, the President will hardly encourage creation of any leverage to impact on his own policy.

However, in the current conditions, while the opposition in Armenia is too weak to exert influence on the decision-making process or determine the political trends, the persistent demand for participation in solving national issues can play an important role. The establishment of a consultative Diaspora body can not only balance the authoritarian way of decision-making, but also implant a new culture, also stimulating independence of such state institutes as the parliament, courts, the NGO sector and press.

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