One can only guess what led Mr. Benon Sevan - former under-secretary of the United Nations - into publicly attacking critics of the current regime in Armenia (“so-called pundits, rabble-rousers, including self-serving former government officials”) for trying to “bring about a regime change not through the ballot box but through encouraging a mob culture”. One could not fail to feel a measure of puzzled, slightly nauseated discomfort at his de-crying of the excessive negativity heard about the Republic in the Armenian media. Whatever the reason - fawning servility or accidental ignorance - the sight of someone of Mr. Sevan's stature defending the indefensible was not at all appetising.
“Of all the hundreds of negative reports, is not there at least a single positive development to report on? Contrary to the ongoing politically motivated negativism, there are indeed many successes and improvements achieved in Armenia which deserve to be congratulated and encouraged”, so goes the argument. No country has become democratic overnight, it is posited, and centuries of foreign occupation and seventy years of communist rule have apparently turned poor native Armenian brains into such incoherent goo that they are not able to comprehend the complicated ins-and-outs of electoral democracy and the rule of law. Counting ballots correctly is a very difficult task, it seems.
It is fair to ask whether there has been any society in history that has achieved progress through the kind of self-congratulatory censorship Mr. Sevan proposes. Armenians could, of course, fill the pages of their newspapers with stories of Armenia’s glorious victories and successes – Pravda-style – only to see a polity without critique and introspection inevitably end in Brezhnevite stagnation. Armenians could, naturally, pretend life in Armenia is fab while hundreds of thousands vote with their feet and seek their economic prosperity and political liberty in foreign lands. And Armenians could, as a matter of fact, close their eyes to the authoritarian excesses of Armenia’s leaders, excesses that, far from being the mysterious product of some centuries-old trauma, are the conscious efforts at usurpation by a corrupt elite whose insidious politics and organised criminality are inextricably intertwined.
But when Mr. Sevan directs critics of the current authorities towards the ballot-box, he leaves out the crucial fact that it is the heavy, sweaty hand of a this elite that rests on that box and does the “counting”. In the absence of elected government, it behoves outsiders to respect those who try to resist injustice and effect change, instead of siding with those who, over the past two decades, have turned this country into one gigantic money-making racket, based on government of some people, by some people and for some people.
Those who want a clearer view of the real dangers Armenia is sleep-walking into should urgently re-read Dr. Jirair Libaridian’s recent open letter on the current situation, one that offers a depressing but harshly realistic contrast to Mr. Sevan’s advocation of self-indulgent and entirely misplaced complacency.