When the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) – a political party in Armenia - held an open-to-all pre-election vote to decide which of their leaders should run for presidency in 2008, I jokingly told my sister this was the first transparent and democratic presidential election in Armenia’s entire history.
It is quite funny and somewhat ironic, but the nationalist ARF or Dashnak party is introducing democracy in Armenia through very creative and unique ways.
The Armenian Observer informs of the newest ARF method to gain votes:
[T]he party now has printed out 400,000 ‘contracts’ with Vahan Hovhannisyan – the ARF candidate [decided by the open-to-all vote].
According to this contract, the presidential candidate promises to make social changes, maintain political stability, contribute to the unification of Armenians in the homeland, establish social solidarity, ensure free elections.
Everybody that reads and signs the agreement will receive a small card with the picture of Vahan Hovhannisyan and will join the movement “I am with Vahan”. [...]
I have also heard rumours, that ARF are planning yet another major PR event, specifically targeting young people – Serj Tankian, the lead vocalist, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist of the alternative metal band System of a Down, will hold a concert in Yerevan in support of ARF-Dashnaktsutyun candidate.
I don’t think I’d vote for the ARF candidate if I lived in Armenia (in fact, I might boycott the elections), but I can’t hide my support for the healthy campaign they have been doing so far for the 2008 elections. They are clearly introducing a culture of fair and fun politics in Armenia which supports the democratization and builds general trust for elections.
Despite many dark aspects of the ARF history, I think they are making history today by creating a culture of transparency and trust through simple campaign strategies.
And it is not all about gaining power this time, it seems ARF is delivering a Ralph-Nader-kind of message.