January saw an incredible amount of political announcements in Armenia - all and every party in Armenia stating their views on the possibility of forming a coalition or getting on alone as they prepare to run for the Parliamentary elections in May 2007. Some of the parties do state rather firm views, like United Labor Party (MAK) of G. Arsenyan stating earlier that they will definitely run separately, while ARF saying in a firm but fishy way that "The ARF will take an independent part in the elections, but cooperation with the opposition is not ruled out"(22 January 2007, ARKA - News) and opposition grouping and regrouping at a blazing speed almost on a daily basis. Now the problem with all this political dance-about is - nobody is talking of concrete political ideas and programs. And this is becoming a most overwhelming issue when we look at the newly emerged superparty - the "Prosperous Armenia" - the party which has over 300,000 members subscribed to its hideous model of "potato democracy". This is roughly 20% of the voting age population, and is 3 times bigger membership then the Communist Party of Armenia had in its best days during the Socialist era.
In the meanwhile an RFE/RL had an earlier report on the evening program of 14th January, 2007 about the study conducted by the Armenian Sociological Association, in which it detailed on the fact that 58% of Armenia's population is not satisfied with the overall political course of the country, but in the same time the majority of the 1200 questioned thought, that the country is making a solid progress as far as the economy is concerned (the assumption that the economy is in a good shape is only partly true considering the the export/import dynamics and overall economic developments, and is rather a product of dollar's devaluation and aggressive pro-government propaganda on all Armenian TV Media). At any rate, the study found, that the voters are prioritizing the issues of job creation, increase of pensions and social benefits, while defining the problems of conducting free and fare elections and the solution of the Kharabakh conflict as secondary objectives for the political agenda.
Much later, on January 22nd, the President of the abovementioned Armenian Sociological Association, Gevork Pogossyan, told ArmInfo (22 January 2007, ARMINFO News) that although "60% of Armenia's electorate today has a traditionally oppositional mood and this tendency has been remaining within the last 10 years", amazingly enough at least for me "the "Prosperous Armenia" party and the Republican party have the highest rating in the political field of Armenia. Then the ARF "Dashnaktsutiun" party comes, while the rating of oppositional parties is lower". And although the respectable scientist does not seem surprised at such contradictions in the moods of the Armenian public and explains it all by saying that "the phenomenon of the "Prosperous Armenia" can be compared with the "Orinats Yerkir" party's phenomenon in 2003 elections, when this party had presented new persons, new slogans and fresh ideas" I find such an explanation unsatisfactory - because populist as the "Orinats Yerkir" were - they at least had something resembling a program to present, whereas "Prosperous Armenia" is only in the politics via a widespread distribution of potato seeds, plastic ropes and vague promises, that its leader Gaguik Tsarukyan will continue helping its voters and sharing his immense wealth (mostly gained by tax evasion and other means of ripping off the mentioned voters) after his party is elected to the parliament.
This however, doesn't mean that the Armenian voter is regressing or that it is becoming less and less politically literate, but rather, that people are essentially deprived of political alternatives and choice, so they are turning to non-political alternatives. And this is what troubles me most - for one day the single practices of voting for populist calls and full pockets may turn from a bad habit into a firm tradition. (A1+ has more on the issue)