- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 7, 2003 

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

Dear Mr. Kocharyan

Congratulations on Wednesday's re-election and your second term as President of Armenia. As I write this, the Opposition is still saying you didn't win, but they said that about the first round, too, and nothing changed.

You know, of course, that many are not pleased with the means by which victory was guaranteed. Given that the margin of your win was great (35 percent), why was it necessary to mar your achievement with so much illegality? What could have been a mandate is instead a second term that comes with an asterisk.

Still. It is a new day and a new term and because most in this country are not represented by either the ballot-stuffing thugs or the ill-spoken reactionaries, life will go on its orderly way.

You have a chance now to show us who you are. No longer burdened with the need to secure another five years, will we see a man less aligned to power brokers and more concerned for the common citizen?

Some, perhaps many, who want to believe in you but have found it hard to do so because of your poor human rights record, are waiting to see if you shed those who might lead you wrong in those areas, but whose presence in your fold has assured your re-election.

A Diaspora friend of mine phoned on election day to ask how the voting was going. I told him it was a repeat of Feb. 19.

"I've heard Kocharyan is not a bad guy, but is surrounded by bad guys," my friend said. "But if he's the man in charge why doesn't he get rid of the bad guys?"

To turn this into "good guy/bad guy" is way too simple of course, but it's a valid question isn't it?

Show us your campaign slogan "Let's Work Together" is more than just a slogan. Let "us" work together ought to include those who too often are "them", the ones without the power to get your attention.

And it's all about power here, isn't it? My men have more muscle than your men. My Mercedes is newer than your Mercedes. My black coats are longer than your black coats . . .

At least in the eyes of foreign observers (and this is significant considering relations with the Council of Europe) your men of muscle aren't doing you any favors Mr. President.

Your Minister of Defense delivered votes, but at what cost to your international image?

And your Prime Minister, well, let us just say that girth should not be the measure of leadership ability anymore than swallowing a pill should prove a man's virility.

"Puppet President" is not a decent legacy, sir. Don't let it be yours.

Independent Armenia will become a teenager during your second term. You're a parent; you know those are difficult years that require patience and a temperament that is a near-impossible mix of sternness and tolerance. And the best children are raised by parents who themselves are willing to grow during those years.

You have the advantage of leading a people to whom patriotism is still an honored currency.

I grew up in the US state of Alabama, in a village about the size of Martuni in your homeland, Karabakh. The nearest town, similar to your hometown, Stepanakert, was named for a hero of the War of 1812, Commodore Stephen Decatur.

The first newspaper I read, and probably a reason I'm still a journalist even though it's a very long way from here to Decatur, had a paraphrased quote from the Commodore that it ran everyday on its masthead:

"My country. May she ever be right, but right or wrong, my country."

It has been a long time since I agreed with such blind sentiment. But plenty here have that American warrior's attitude toward their homeland. You owe them an honorable President.

When the anger of these days quiets, when Mashtots is again an avenue of commerce rather than a protest pipeline, workers will resume putting a new face on the thawed capital and café life will replace political rallies.

Life here will go back to normal. You have a chance to change what "normal" means for so many caught in abnormal circumstance. Please earn the respect of those who voted honestly for you. And for those whose rights were violated to secure your place, please earn their forgiveness.


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  Photo of the week
  Head of State
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Head of State

President Robert Kocharyan was elected to a second term.



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