Armenian Libertarian-Socialist Movement

Global, Caucasian and Armenian politics in anarchist perspective

Will Levon’s (purportedly distancing) stance on Diaspora prevent him from winning over the Raffi Hovhanissian crumpet?

Posted by kronstadt on December 1, 2007

Photo taken by Onnik KrikorianFrom the outset of the presidential campaigning rat-race it was obvious that Raffi Hovannisian will not be able to stand as a presidential candidate due to the 10-year citizenship and residency criterion. Yet Raffi Hovhanissian, apart from having the Heritage party behind him (which also has a parliamentary presence), is an important force for his party holds a significant electorate loyalty. What’s more is that Raffi Hovhanissian is well regarded in the non-Dashnak and non-partisan sections of very influential Diaspora, and that may be a barrier for Levon to overcome. It is now becoming obvious that Raffi Hovhanissian will be supporting one of the eligible candidates. But who will it be?

For Levon Ter-Petrosyan winning Raffi Hovhanissian over is crucial: it’s a matter of securing a victory, or running the danger of not even getting into the second round. If Levon does not win over Raffi, the negative effects would be double if not triple: he will not only loose the Herritage Party’s electorate votes, but also loose it to another contender (HHD or Manukyan)… and that kind of formation could have a spiralling negative effect of disintegrating confidence in Levon camp. Ultimately, Raffi’s choice might be the deciding factor in determining who will be Serj Sarkisyan’s challenger in the second round.

That Raffi won’t be supporting Geghamian is very clear. He is not very likely to support Artur Baghdasaryan either. Raffi could support is Vazgen Manukyan, but only if the latter manages to amalgamate a significant camp around his candidacy, while Manukyan is relatively inactive and is making some strange (and some would say, irrational) moves like liaising with Dashnaks.

Raffi & Dashnaks

Now, some might argue that Raffi’s stance on Artsakh is generally close (at least in spirit) to that of HHD (ARF-Dashnaks), but Raffi Hovhanissian might be well reluctant to support Vahan Hovhanissian (the Dashnak candidate). After all, there is a whole history of much more complex Diasporic politics as well as HHD’s open support and cooperation with Serj Sarkisyan (which the Diaspora overall is not particularly excited about, with the exception of few organizations). If, however, Levon does not manage to win Raffi over and see his support go for Dashnaks, that would be very damaging for Levon’s campaign, as well as for the country as a whole, since they would then be presented with a near-monolithic ruling ultra-conservative and ultra-nationalist HHK+HHD… and it won’t be 10 more years of the same… it will be 10 more years of the much worse…

Raffi & Levon

Levon Ter-Petrosyan has already had a meeting with Raffi Hovhanissian. Raffi didn’t say “Yes” to Levon’s call, but he didn’t say “No” either. Of course, it would be premature of Raffi jumping on Levon’s bandwagon without even seeing the content of his 3-year plan. The two might have some clear differences of Artsakh issue, but one area where Raffi Hovhanissian’s stance is very constructive, and Levon’s is less so, is the issue of Diaspora. Let’s look at this issue in more detail.

The Diaspora: during Levon and Robert

Before the divisions of opinion about Levon started occurring in Armenia, those disagreements were already widespread within the Diaspora in mid 1990s over the Dashnak incident. Almost immediately Dashnaks of Diaspora started quickly spreading all kinds of roomers about Levon, while the non-partisan intelligentsia and intellectuals remained pro-Levon for a while longer. The perception that has been concocted by the Dashnaks (who are very organised and active within the Diasporan everyday lives) is that Levon is against the Diaspora as a whole (as if whole of Diaspora is Dashnak) and that Levon wishes to seal the Republic off from any Diasporan influence. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the Diaspora, though quite politically conscious, does not belong to any party. It’s internal affairs and perceptions are mediated by a very complex web of non-partisan institutions, newspapers, educational institutions, activists, the Church and NGOs, while all of these are headed by the intelligentsia and intellectuals of the Diaspora. So, the texture of Diasporan politics is radically different from that of the Republic. From day one in presidential office Levon Ter-Petrosyan started a very intensive dialogue with these Diasporic structures of non-partisan intelligentsia and intellectuals. He brought in many well-educated people from the Diaspora, one of whom was Raffi Hovhanissyan. Ter-Petrosyan’s wife, the First Lady, was particularly instrumental in the continuous development of this dialogue between Armenia and Diaspora. And the simple fact is that the current leaders of the Diasporic communities, as well as the new generation of intelligentsia and intellectuals do in fact remember all that.

Now let’s fast-forward to Kocharian years. It was during these years that we saw the series of Armenia-Diaspora conferences as well as numerous other initiatives, which were more of a spectacular show than a matter of substance and practical achievements of really integrating the Diaspora (rather than a select of particular wealthy individuals within it) in Armenia and vice-versa. Those conferences were like a colourful platform for lucrative business deals between the Regime and the Foreign investors. Furthermore, it was during Kocharian’s years that we saw the passing of that controversial and laughable constitution where the question of Dual-Citizenship is riddled with more mysteries than clear answers. In effect, it seems like there following false imagery has been concocted: Levon was a staunchest opponent of all of the Diaspora as he wanted to seal Armenia off from it’s people living abroad, while Kocharian and his followers are the flag-bearers of eternal friendship and openness toward the Diasporan Armenians. Yet the Diaspora has it’s own challenges and struggles, and whenever Kocharian & Co were kindly asked to offer the political, moral, diplomatic and symbolic support in those issues, Kocharian & Co’s response would be that of pure cost/benefit analysis. In fact, when one looks at specific cases, one may notice that Kocharian’s greed and desire for petty profiteering has resulted not just in a simple refusal for assistance, but has done more damage to Diaspora and it’s relationship with the Republic. As a result, Diaspora has been loosing a lot of ground abroad, while it’s structures are disintegrating.

Now, how does all this relate back to the current situation with Raffi Hovhanissian? For anybody who has half a brain in Diaspora (and there are quite a few of those), they can see through this false imagery generated by Kocharian & Co. At the same time the effects of Dashnak ill-mouthing of Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and his resolutely anti-Dual-Citizenship don’t really improve his position in Diasporan view. Yet, Raffi Hovhanissian is not just another politician in the Republic – for the non-partisan Diaspora he is more of a “symbol” (a symbol of a return and a symbol of well-educated Western-Armenian who has a significant and independent say in Armenian political life) and that’s yet another source of his strength and significance.

What can Levon do at this stage?

So what can Levon do to win Raffi over? It’s the same question as “what can Levon do win back the non-partisan Diaspora’s sympathy?” And the simple answer is

(A) to highlight the corrupt nature of Kocharian & Co’s dealings with particular wealthy individuals and corrupt institutions of the Diaspora; to highlight Kocharian’s cold-shoulder for the burning issues in Diaspora’s struggles, and

(B) to include in his 3-year plan a clear policy that would offer a resolute support and assistance for the burning issues that the Diasporan Intelligentsia is confronted with – something that was ignored.

If Levon Ter-Petrosyan could deliver something along these lines in his December 8th outline of his 3-year plan, it could really turn fortunes and contribute positively to Raffi Hovhanissian’s final decision of whom to support in these elections.

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9 Responses to “Will Levon’s (purportedly distancing) stance on Diaspora prevent him from winning over the Raffi Hovhanissian crumpet?”

  1. artmika said

    Agree that gaining Raffi’s support would be of significant importance for Levon to be able to mobilise Heritage party loyalists and supporters behind him. And this may have significant effect on election results. However, I would separate Raffi’s and his Heritage party’s support from that of Diaspora in terms of its influence on election results. Despite Diaspora Armenians’ increasing presence in Armenia, I do not think that they have real potential right now to directly influence the results of elections (if we forget Dashnaks for a moment). The only influence Diasporan circles may have in this particular case is indirect influence via influencing decision of Raffi. In any case, I think Raffi’s decision will be mostly based on local factors and to gain his support Levon will certainly have to make significant efforts.

    I completely agree with your point (B) re Levon’s programme, which is important regardless, but will also contribute to this particular cause. However, I do not think Levon is in a position to effectively challenge current administration into corruption charges (A). It will backfire (and rightly so) and will have an effect of ricochet.

  2. […] such as Nikol Pashinian, Aram Sarkisian, and the not-so-radical Stepan Demirchian. Probably, as mentioned by the Armenian Libertarian-Socialist Movement, he needs the support of popular figures such as Raffi Hovannisian. For Levon Ter-Petrosyan winning […]

  3. Melkoniantsi said

    I think it is crucial for LTP to voice his opinion on the Diaspora issues and concerns louder. In his recent meeting with youth he said that it is the responsibility of RA to support and preserve the Western Armenian culture and language. I think he is well informed on the main problem in Diaspora.
    Being directly involved in diasporas issues I would say that today that’s the major concern in Diaspora, where many people are concerned that Western Armenian is becoming an endangered language in the verge of disappearance in the coming few years.
    There is no major Armenian body or organization that sincerely looks after this issue. AGBU which used to be the champion in this matter is not anymore. Now the main strategy of its illegitimate Central Board is to transfer all the funds and projects to Armenia forgetting that over 60% of Armenians who don’t live in Armenia become vulnerable to loose their identity. A vivid and recent example is the closure of Melkonian Educational Institute. A fine institution, a real model of the would be Western Armenia where not only people learn Western Armenian language and culture but live one, make friends, fall in love, get married and build families (a few days ago I learned that two of my classmates just got married and this is a common occurrence).
    So far the current Armenian regime and both the Catholicoses turned a blind eye on this critical issues. As Kronstad said they are more interested in money and power. What we need is a guarantor who will protect the Diaspora. The dual citizenship and things like that are mere details that we can live without. It is more important to have the broader view of the real issues. LTP has the views, I and many like me are waiting to hear his vision. Many know that Melkoniantsis are a strong if not the strongest pillar in Diaspora. We stand firm and wait.

  4. […] Libertarian-Socialist Movement says that former president, Levon Ter Petrosian, might find himself reliant on support from his first foreign minister, now opposition party leader, Raffi Hovannisian. The post also examines the role of the Diaspora in […]

  5. […] as the Armenian Libertarian Socialist Movement recently concluded, his decision might well determine the success or not of Ter Petrosian’s campaign. Certainly, […]

  6. […] ALS Movement on the other hand, explores at length the possibility of Raffi Hovhannisyan’s supporting the First President of Armenia: It is now becoming obvious that Raffi Hovhanissian will be supporting one of the eligible candidates.  But who will it be? For Levon Ter-Petrosyan winning Raffi Hovhanissian over is crucial: it’s a matter of securing a victory, or running the danger of not even getting into the second round.  […]

  7. Vartan said

    Hi
    I came across your organisation’s web site this morning so I am still reading.
    However on the issue of election and Levon and Raffi and diaspora. Just wanted to say a few things. Diaspora is more divided than we really think. There is no room for intellectuals or inteligencia or the left to really work as your article rightly mentioned most of the structure is in the hands of the dashnaks, the AGBU’s and Henchaks dont really do much well at least not in London or UK.
    when first time levon came to london to preach people went to listen and we did listen to his theory of how Armenia should be and governed etc. Some of the Iranian Aremnian communists mostley in exiled who went to listen came to the conclusion there and then that this guy is advocating capitalism and for us that was the end and as a communist kocharyan has just followed on from levon’s mess. I have seen Raffi Hovanessian during my visits to Yerevan, he does have my respect because I hope at least he would and has the capability and knowledge to sort out the social issues i.e. poverty, unemployment etc. I dont know his economical program for Armenia, if there is a chance and that can be published.
    shnorhakal

  8. My friend on Facebook shared this link with me and I’m not dissapointed that I came to your blog.

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