Guest post: Reality during Elections in Armenia

This is an email I’m forwarding from my cousin in Kapan, who is currently living through the hardships and threatening circumstances elections in Armenia brings.

So it’s the 21st century, we are living in what is supposed to be a free world, supposed, being the key word here.
As you all know, I moved to Armenia in April of 2011, and for the most part I love it.
However, once in a while, actually, often times, the harsh reality that I now live in a country that is corrupt rears its ugly head, and stops me in my tracks.
 
Its election time again, this time it’s the Mayoral elections.
In May we went through the nightmare of electing a parliament, what a sham that was, but anyway, that’s not what I am writing about today.
 
In Kapan, where I live, we have two candidates running for the mayor’s office. One is the incumbent, Artur Atayan, who happens to be a member of ARF, not that that should matter, and a good friend of mine, and the other candidate is Ashot Hovhannisyan, who is the candidate put forth by the Republican party, and backed by the governor of Syunik, Suren Khachatryan.
 
I don’t want to write too much about our governor, but if you want to know more about him, just Google him, and you’ll have enough reading material to last a full weekend.
 
Generally I don’t get involved in political matters, I am not here for politics, I am here to protect the interests of Deno Gold and Dundee Precious Metals, and make Deno a better place for everyone. However, being in a position of authority in Armenia generally means you are involved in politics, and it’s no different with me, one way or another, I get sucked into it.
 
I have made my personal position clear, to protect the interests of Deno Gold, and to ensure this city continues to prosper, Artur Atayan has to get re-elected, this is a no brainer, but, as senior management, we have made it clear that, unlike other organizations in the region, we will not force our employees to vote one way or another, each of our employees has the right to vote for the candidate he feels is best suited for the job.
 
Earlier today my phone rang; it was my “friend”, the governor. Now the governor and I go back two years, (Having met him in Toronto) we have a good relationship, we have lunch once in a while, be seen at public events together etc., but I try and keep my distance from him. Why, well as I said above, Google him and you’ll know why.
To keep a long story short, the governor was calling to threaten me that if I used my influence in the community in favour of Artur Atayan in the mayoral elections, “no one would be able to save me”, those are his exact words. He made absurd accusations about the fact that I was too involved in politics; I was using my public image to gather support for Mr. Atayan, and that if I didn’t back off, “no one would be able to save me” and I’d have problems.
 
Now, if you ask me if I am surprised, the answer is no, as this is a common tactic used by thugs in Armenia. But this is the governor, someone who everyone in Syunik is scared of, this guy can make people disappear, and he has done it in the past, breaking arms and legs, hitting women in public and beating up 13 year olds, you name it, it’s on his resume. So no, I was not surprised.
I had two options here, be scared and stay quiet, and forever live in fear of the governor like most people do here, or remind him that first of all, I am the director of the 7th largest company in Armenia, I am a Canadian Armenian who he cannot bully around, and he is in no position to threaten anyone, let along the representative of a foreign investor.
 
I chose the latter, and I pushed back, to the tone of raising my voice at the governor, and reminding him that I am not someone he can just call, make hollow accusations, and expect me to be scared of him and then kiss his behind like a lot of people around him do.
The governor took my message, after a few tense minutes of arguing, he asked me not to be upset, and that him and I would get together tomorrow to talk.
 
So we met the next day, he was at his idiotic best…he threatened to have me kicked out of the country, saying he can make one phone call and it will happen, I challenged him to do it, I even offered him my phone, of course he declined…then he asked me to resign from the ARF and join the Republicans so I could have a good future in Armenia, I told him that will not happen in this lifetime…then he asked me to publicly announce my support for his Republican candidate, I told him I wouldn’t…then he raised his voice at me and threatened to get me fired, once again I told him by all means, go ahead and see what you can do…finally, he asked me to make an announcement in my company that they should all vote for his candidate etc etc…anyway, of course none of this was acceptable for me, we have agreed to disagree…
 
Sure makes you wonder, is this guy sane…
 
After living in the diaspora for 37 years, and moving here about a year and a half ago, leaving a very comfortable life in Canada, I often wonder if I am stupid to have made this move, and the answer is always the same, no, I am not, I just love my homeland too much.
 
Now, if we could just make people like the governor understand that, this is a free world, people can elect whomever they want, vote for their preferred candidate, and shouldn’t be bullied around or paid off, this place would be heaven.
 
But then again, what do you expect from a country where this same governor can beat a woman in front of members of parliament, in a public setting, which is caught on videotape, and get away with it.
 
And just today….please see the attached links…this is what we have to deal with…there is now no other candidate except for the governor’s puppet who will be our new mayor…
 
 
 
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