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March 12, 2009

ACNIS Presents New Monograph on the Psychology of Comparative Change

Yerevan—Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today convened a special roundtable to present the findings of a new monograph entitled “One Year Later: The Psychology of Comparative Change in Armenia and the US.”

Welcoming the participants and attendees, ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian explained that “one year after the tragic events of March 1, 2008, Armenia remains challenged by the lingering effects of an unresolved post-election crisis,” but noted that “the underlying causes of Armenia’s post-election crisis include several unresolved problems, ranging from widening socio-economic disparities to a pronounced political polarization.”

Giragosian went on to say that the monograph revealed “an interesting parallel in the psychology of comparative change in Armenia and the United States, driven in both countries by an awakening of the people, as a population no longer satisfied with apathy or inactivity, and seeking an agenda for change.”

The day’s first speaker, ACNIS Research Coordinator Syuzanna Barseghian, presented the monograph’s findings entitled “The Logic of the Presidential Election of 2008: The Change of the Public Perceptions.” According to Barseghian, Armenia’s 2008 presidential elections were distinct because, this time, apathy did not accompany the entire pre- and post-election process. And during the post-election phase, there was a civic and psychological process which the authorities tried to define as an “appropriation of state power” and a “coup” attempt, whereas the opposition called it a “people’s movement.”  “Yet the greatest concern is the disappointment that could emerge among the masses who have awakened from apathy, and this disappointment is dangerous for the whole society. It is therefore necessary to learn lessons from such developments,” Barseghian noted. “The social tension and the polarization of the political field as well as the absence of discourse and the state of intolerance, all of which are the results of the 2008 presidential elections, inevitably will bring about a need to increase the societal factor and the citizens’ role in the political processes, a change in public perceptions, and a demand for a ‘new opposition.’”

In her turn, ACNIS analyst Armine Ghazarian spoke on the monograph’s findings under the heading “The Psychological Peculiarities of the Presidential Election Period.” As indicated by Ghazarian, the events that occurred in Armenia in the past one year, and those that are still taking place, have brought about a social and psychological decline and have created public tension.  As a result, we now face growing psychological problems, such as frustration, depression and discomfort, psychological and emotional strains and responses, as well as stress and resultant reactions.  “All this has led to the adoption of a variety of psychological defense mechanisms: aggression, ousting, denial, rationalization, etc. And it is a troubling fact that a long time is still needed to triumph over such reactions and related behavior so that they do not become fixed character traits, or affect the mentality and psychological characteristics of the Armenian people,” Ghazarian argued.

The ACNIS Director presented the last presentation, “The Psychology of Change in the US: The Obama Experience,” with an analysis of “the American candidate of change,” President Barack Obama, who was “able to mobilize and inspire the American voters by offering something new and promising real change.”  Richard Giragosian went on to stress that despite the similarity between the American and Armenian political context of a need for change, there were several key differences, including: the fact that in US politics, votes count and are protected, and the reality of two different political systems.

Giragosian explained that “while in Armenia, the political system is a “top-down” and closed structure, with power concentrated in the presidency, in the US, the power of the political system rests on a system of ‘checks and balances’ that promotes a healthy and positive competition between the three branches of government.  He then pointed to the separation of business & politics and the role of the “opposition” as important lessons for Armenia, saying that “Armenia needs to recognize the fact that a dynamic and active opposition is a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy, and is not a threat to the state or the system.”

The formal deliberations were then followed by questions, answers, and a lively exchange among many leading Armenian analysts and experts, as well as several officials.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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