Not in a long time have the stakes been so high for Armenians both in Armenia and across key communities of the Diaspora, including the United States.
2012 will be a crucial election year and Armenians will have a chance to make their voices heard and impact policy and the future outcome of issues critical to their well-being and our national aspirations.
In Armenia, the parliamentary elections scheduled for May will become a true test for the Armenian government, which has often proclaimed a commitment to adhere to democratic norms and ensure a fair election.
For the Armenian voter, it is also a significant opportunity to turn the tide and make a lasting change that will impact all facets of life. Change comes gradually, but 20 years have elapsed since Armenia’s independence and a new generation of voters can make a difference.
The year closed with two opposition parties in parliament, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Heritage Party, jointly calling for the abolition of the single-seat constituency element for parliamentary elections and adopting a 100-percent proportional representation system. This critical proposal could empower voters to rally around their preferred party and go to the polls to express their will and not that of an oligarch’s who has thrown his weight and money at the time of the elections. It would behoove the authorities to back this proposal and, once and for all, alter the course of the elections in Armenia.
Free and fair election there can become the impetus for resolving some of the most critical issues facing our homeland, especially as it pertains to the socio-economic well being of those living in Armenia. An unobstructed election can also give hope to a society, which has all but given up and has grown increasingly apathetic toward the system in Armenia.
The 2012 elections will also provide the political parties to strongly advocate their platforms and empower voters to go to the polls, and not be afraid of intimidation tactics thus far used during elections in Armenia.
In the US, Armenian-Americans are still reeling from the disappointing blow President Obama dealt the community by not honoring his campaign pledges from four years ago. Most Armenian-American voters feel duped by an administration, whose key players say one thing and do the completely opposite when it comes to fulfilling their promises.
As the election campaign heats up in the US, the Armenian-American constituency has a critical role to play with its vote. With the Republican primaries playing out like a bad reality show and the Democratic ticket having disappointed the community, the upcoming presidential race in the US will become a critical turning point for the Armenian-American vote. Add to that races in reapportioned Congressional districts in key states such as California and New York and you have scenario whereby each person running for office will be counting on every single vote.
While the events of the last four years have left many a voter disappointed it is the responsibility of every Armenian-American voter to exercise that right and make his/her voice heard. The sentiment to withhold one’s vote as an expression of protest will only hurt the community’s collective ability to impact and ultimately change policy in this country.
We are closing the year with an important victory with the House passage of H. Res. 306, which calls on Turkey to return stolen churches and other properties to their rightful owners. This crucial win would not have been possible without the dedicated constituents who vocalized their points of view through communications with their elected officials. We must ensure that the power of the Armenian vote grows and becomes even louder as we enter the 2012 election cycle.
Our compatriots in France and Russia will also be heading to the polls for crucial presidential elections in both countries.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party was front and center during last week’s passage of a bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide and the French-Armenian voters played a key role in advocating a principled stance on the matter in France.
In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s stated desire to re-occupy the presidency leaves the almost one million Armenian constituents there in a position to impact the outcome of that vote.
The challenges facing Armenians here and in the homeland are not insurmountable. They require each Armenian’s will, determination and dedication to achieve our aspirations and expand the scope of our voice wherever we live.
Happy New Year.