On the Tavush Movement: Armenia’s Public Life Must Rise from the Street to the Level of Constitutional Legitimacy

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More than a month has passed since the day when the protest against the border demarcation works carried out in the Tavush region was transformed into the “Movement of Tavush for the Motherland,” led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, the Primate of the Diocese of Tavush. This movement initiated a march to Yerevan’s Republic Square, where on May 9, a mass meeting with 31 thousand participants took place, and on that day, the clerical leader of the movement demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan with a one-hour deadline. After that, the authorities, headed by Prime Minister Pashinyan, continued to run the state administration in the usual manner, while the movement initiated actions of civil disobedience, especially blocking streets.

Through the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) press, we followed all of this with some concern and were content initially to merely report on the various developments taking place as news.

Today, more than a month later, we find it necessary to pass from the stage of news reports to that of a brief and objective analysis of the state of crisis that has been created, to take a position and define our expectations of the Armenian people and the authorities, in order that Armenia remains a democratic member of the great family of civilized countries, subject solely to the implementation of the will of the majority.

It is superfluous at this point to remind readers that Armenia, surrounded by predatory neighbors, and as a result of the often contradictory policies conducted by successive governments for more than thirty years after the reattainment of independence, after losing Artsakh in 2020, is now, to put it mildly, in a difficult and precarious political situation. To consider today’s authorities, led by Prime Minister Pashinyan, as the sole responsible and the reason for all of this is without a doubt thoughtless and unfair.

However, it is also unavoidable that the government of the day is obliged to continuously explain its policies to the people who elect it, and to attempt in this manner to substantiate the trust they have in it.

We must be fair: knowing the current political, military, economic and international facts the task of anyone who is at the head of the government today is unenviably difficult. No one political party or group has been able to offer well defined and clearly preferable alternatives until today.

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Nevertheless, the ADL press has always been vigilant and over the course of the past months through its editorials and leading articles made clearly defined serious criticisms of certain positions adopted or proposed by the authorities of the day.

It is now time that we make the following brief objective analysis of the Tavush Movement, after following its activities and tasks, as mentioned above, for an entire month.

First of all, it is certain that many different groups in Armenia with deep dissatisfaction with the authorities joined the big May 9 rally at Yerevan’s Republic Square. This large assemblage of protesting citizens would naturally expect to find in this movement a leadership capable of satisfying the people and offering a clear alternative policy.

However, the following days and in particular the follow-up public meeting on May 26, which was awaited with great expectations, created a great illusion in the above sense.

On May 26, the movement was unable to present itself as a group of experienced and capable leaders ready to lead and inspire confidence. Instead, Archbishop Galstanyan presented himself as the only apparent leader, as well as the prime ministerial candidate with the pretention of replacing the current authorities. He also announced that he has “frozen” his ecclesiastical activities, both clerical and administrative, without even explaining the meaning and scope of this “freezing.” On May 26 and afterwards, until today, the complete absence of an alternative national political platform from the movement led to even more disillusionment. All that remained was the demand for the immediate resignation of the prime minister and the government, so that Archbishop Galstanyan would head a completely new and unknown government.

As a matter of fact, during the course of an entire month, the visible manifestation of the work of the “Tavushi Movement” was mostly the fruitless actions of civil disobedience to block the streets, even on the days when important regions in the north of the country with their entire population were exposed to huge catastrophic damage due to the flooding rains.

In light of all this, based on the abovementioned indisputable facts, it is certain that if it were true that there are some important justifiable grievances concerning the activities of today’s authorities, it is also true that the Tavush Movement until the present has not been able to inspire confidence in any way that it can guarantee that it is capable of replacing the current government with an administration that will conduct a more favorable policy for the country. The aspiring prime ministerial candidate Bagrat Srpazan himself clearly does not have any political experience. As to his activities in Canada some ten years ago as the Primate of the local diocese, which are sometimes alluded to, the archives will show that his administrative work was at the very least very problematic, though this issue should not be addressed today, so as not to open old wounds.

The most important thing, however, is that in a country that professes democracy, while it is a common phenomenon to see daily expressions of dissatisfaction and protest of an important part of the people against a ruling government, the only way to change that government is through legal extraordinary or regular elections, which should take place following the laws provided by the Constitution.

Therefore, taking into account all the objective information we pointed out in this article and as a result of the unacceptable current practices that have turned into disorder in the streets of Armenia today, we would like to clearly state now that vague political expressions, closing streets, and demanding the resignation of the prime minister are impractical, unreliable and therefore unacceptable measures to implement any regime change. The only acceptable way is to implement legally allowed and anticipated measures, to try to hold early elections in the near future, and if the parliamentary opposition does not have the appropriate means today, to wait until the next regular elections in Armenia in 2026, so that on that occasion they will try to achieve the change of the country’s authorities.

Until then, the most important thing that is necessary – and this is our demand – is that as a priority, the public atmosphere of Armenia should return to a peaceful and productive state, so that Armenia strengthens its economy and especially its military, without which the existence of our homeland is seriously threatened.

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