Democracy in Post-Soviet Armenia
The opinion-page article "Help Wanted for Armenia," (Feb. 23), on Armenia's mixed post-Soviet record, makes good points on the influence of electoral illegitimacy on democracy. But it provides dubious counsel to precondition US support for Armenia on the placement of a "legitimate" government.
Author Ian Bremmer's argument - that acting President Robert Kocharian is a political hard-liner, not an Armenian citizen, and therefore an unconstitutional candidate - misses the mark. The recent transition of power should not be simplistically cast as an internal struggle between hawks and doves. It is, rather, a window for Armenia to rediscover the road to democracy, stability, and legitimacy.
Targeting Mr. Kocharian is a prejudicial swipe against one of 13 legitimate contenders. The Armenian Constitution, if that is what the author refers to, is gravely flawed. It requires, for example, that presidential candidates be citizens and residents of the republic for the past 10 years. The republic has a history of 6-1/2 years - no candidate qualifies under this interpretation.
A wiser US policy might make the correlation between real legitimacy and real peacemaking, and back the democratic process in Armenia - without carrots and sticks.
Raffi K. Hovannisian
Director, Armenian Center for National and International Studies
Mr. Bremmer is of the opinion that the recent resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrossian marks the "lowest point in the life of post-Soviet Armenia." In fact, if he were to ask what most Armenians in the diaspora or in the homeland think, he would find that this resignation was a breath of fresh air. This president was reelected by a minute majority amid much controversy. Despite this, Armenians maintained social peace.
Following reelection, Mr. Ter-Petrossian took the approach of conceding to Azerbaijani demands over the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh within borders artificially drawn by Joseph Stalin. Ter-Petrossian's view was that the short-term advantage of the end of hostilities with Azerbaijan would allow prosperity for Armenia, especially given the region's potential wealth in oil.
This view seems to be shared by Bremmer, and is probably that of the US government as well. However, Armenians have come to disagree. I hope you will accept that an unjust resolution is no solution at all. The very reason there is a conflict with Azerbaijan today is because Stalin unjustly carved the Caucasus to place a Armenian-majority region under Azeri rule.
Should we, in the Western world, support an unjust conclusion because of our wish for rapid access to Caspian Sea oil? Most Armenians have decided that giving up the freedom of Armenians for prosperity was too high a price to pay.
Ter-Petrossian understood the will of the people. For this reason, the president's resignation should be considered a high point of recent Armenian history. It shows that Armenians are capable of resolving issues of great significance.
Berge A. Minassian
To make a difference in the Caucasus, the US must send monitors and support a fair, democratic presidential election in March. It must provide neutral, balanced mediation alongside Russia and France during the OSCE negotiations, by ensuring that Karabakh is represented as a side to the conflict. Finally, it must provide adequate foreign aid to Armenia in the form of foreign investments in the economy.
Armenia is the only country in the region with a stable political environment, a highly educated and trained population, and the potential for a strong economy. To further stabilize the region and exploit its riches for the benefit of all involved, the US must continue to provide unwavering support and friendship to Armenia on its road to democracy.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Armenian News Network Administrator
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