Thursday, 01 October 2020

E Editorial

The Indifference of Political Parties to the Law on Political Parties

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A draft of a new legislation on political parties put forth by “My Step” political fraction is being discussed in the Parliament.  The aim of the legislation is to determine the basic requirements that the State should demand of political parties. One would think that the draft legislation should have attracted the interest of all the political parties, yet besides Heritage party and a few other small principled forces nobody cares.  There was no commotion and no flood of suggestions and objections in the media.  A discussion of such a law in any developed country would probably be the main issue of the public-political life.  Why is this not the case in Armenia?

A desired revolution, a coup, an armed rebellion, irrespective of the means, whether it ends with falsified or non-falsified elections, in accordance with the Constitution, concludes with one of the political forces coming to power.  In any case, the country is governed by the winning party or alliance of parties, and the future of the state is determined by the ruling party’s perceptions, the extent of its internal democracy, the presence or absence of internal party rules of conduct and accountability.

In any case, the election-winning party will extend its value system or the absence of it, its democratic structure or its form of authoritarian rule over the entire state machine and society.

It goes without saying that such a law is fatalistic for any country and can come to be seen as powerful as the Constitution.  In order to give substance to the expression “occupation of the state," a term which crept into the Armenian vocabulary in the last decade, one must first seize a party, and subsequently seize the state with any authoritarian leader or group of people.

It is also clear from the foregoing that the main aim of the law at issue  is to prevent the possibility of the described negative phenomena and to promote intra-party democracy, party membership and, in general, the institution of accountability to the public.  In short, until there are first and foremost ordinary party members and then democratically controlled parties, we will have no prospect.

In Armenia, especially after the change of power, given the experience of our recent past, the new Law on Parties should have been in the public spotlight.  Yet the picture is different.  This situation should worry us.  In fact, the political mind of Armenia is not capable of forming a political agenda.  The political parties do not take an interest in the future of the country--maybe are concerned with other things--or perhaps the political parties do not want such a fundamental law that will force them to become real political institutions.

Armenia is a model country of parliamentary governance.  The most important organizations in the public-political life in such countries are the political parties.  That is, when there are political organizations that express public sentiment and confidence, then that system starts working; if it doesn’t, then something is wrong.

One of Britain’s prominent 19th-century politicians, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, has given a unique definition of the party: “The party is an organized public opinion.”

It is unclear now what kind of public opinion we have and who expresses that opinion.  If this is not the case, it is unclear what “political life of Armenia” is referring to.

However, discussion on a new law on political parties is underway, which is an extremely important initiative, even if it is taking place in half-empty halls and chambers.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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