Coming from a country where political campaigning
never stops, it struck me as odd (and fairly refreshing)
that in Armenia the season of propagandizing lasts
less than a month.
Officially, candidates for President took to
their stumps January 21 and are required to end
their campaigning February 17, two days before
How is it possible that a country can choose
a leader for a five-year term based on less than
five weeks to learn who he is?
It's a small country you answer. Yes, running
for President here is akin to running for county
commissioner - territorially speaking - in a place
the size of California or Texas.
Add to that the distinctly Armenian characteristic
that everybody here knows everybody, who his grandmother
was and which days she hung out the laundry and,
well, there's not much left to tell about a person
and a month of blabbering through a bullhorn won't
change what everybody already knows.
The very entertaining (in a car wreck sort of
way) fact about the above two conditions here
is that this tiny place where everybody knows
everybody has a field of 10 to choose from for
(Remember talk of "coalition" among
oppositional candidates? When was it, three months
ago, that 16 parties pledged to put up a single
candidate? The "coalition" fractured
nine ways, proof perhaps that the opposition could
only agree to be opposite - like a dog with a
full belly growling when another dog approaches
his food, he doesn't want to eat but doesn't want
anyone else to either.)
Anyway. It has now become clear why the campaign
season has such a short term: There'd be no survivors
if it lasted much longer.
In the weeks leading up to the "official"
season, one journalist was injured by a bomb thrown
in his path. Another had his entire newspaper
press run confiscated by an official who didn't
like a story in the daily. And, most tragically,
a television journalist was shot to death and
the unsolved crime has overtones of political
And now that the campaigning is two weeks old
we have had:
- A candidate kicked out of the race because
it was judged his citizenship didn't meet lawful
requirements - and this in a country where the
incumbent is from a self-declared autonomous
republic still known by most of the world as
- A television station was vandalized, its
cables cut and its staff evicted because it
aired video of an oppositional candidate.
- An oppositional candidate's billboard was
set afire on the edge of Yerevan.
- A village leader ordered residents of his
village to stay inside their homes and not attend
an opposition rally. Questioned by journalists
about the incident the leader replied that he
supports the President and no other candidate
is allowed "in his territory".
- In separate incidents, one oppositional rally
turned into a brawl and another a row of stick
wielding mobs, believed to have been organized
by leaders who support the President.
- In the brawl a Parliament Member was nearly
killed in a knife attack, after he'd fired his
handgun into the air to try to quiet the crowd.
(Nobody is even asking why an MP was packing
heat; seems to just go with the territory.)
- The head of the Ararat region was quoted in
newspapers as saying that if candidate Aram
Sargsyan (brother of Vazgen) went campaigning
in Ararat "there will be a murder".
Sargsyan was scheduled to go there today along
with 150 police.
Given the climate here some 17 days into a campaign
in which the outcome has long been a foregone
conclusion, maybe just a month of campaigning
Armenian-style isn't such a short time after all.