Archive for the 'Democracy' Category
My newest post for Ararat Online Magazine is called Armenia’s Click-to-Share Democracy and explores the recent netivisim (Internetnet activism) boom in Armenia:
Women abused in their homes, conscripts humiliated in the military, and children abused at schools. None of the above are new phenomena in post-Soviet Armenia. But that’s the impression one gets by observing Armenia’s social networking. Day after day, YouTube videos (largely shared through Facebook) emerge depicting human rights violations, followed by societal anger, activism, and some government action.
In early September 2010, a video emerged showing humiliation of two conscripts in Armenia’s military. Within one week, and after vociferous anger floating through Armenian accounts of YouTube and Facebook, the abusive career major was arrested. Less than a month after the military video, a video interview with a young woman (and her mother-in-law) describing her sister Zaruhi Petrosyan’s two-year abuse at the hand of the latter’s husband and mother-in-law resulting in Zaruhi’s death hit the Internet. Tens of thousands watched the video; over 3,000 signed a petition, sponsored by this author, to Armenia’s prime minister, demanding justice and swift passage of domestic violence legislation. And less than a week after Zaruhi’s video, a YouTube clip showing abuse of a middle-school kid in the classroom sparked more anger — resulting in the dismissal of the teacher.
None of the above human rights abuses are new to Armenia. But until recently, Armenian citizens have heard about these instances through unconfirmed rumors — state-controlled or self-censored media wouldn’t show these videos on TV and aggressive opposition newspapers are not a reliable source either.
Read the full post on Ararat Magazine.
Amid a 15% decline of GDP and consistent 26% poverty in a country of just three million citizens, Armenia’s parliamentary chamber has gone through an extreme makeover at the cost of $1.3 million dollars.
via Hetq, a glassed cubical for the media
True, it looks very attractive – just like the luxurious cars that Armenia’s oligarchs – many of whom have a seat in the parliament – ride. But is the money wisely spent on the new chamber? Some might say yes – after all, the chamber will eventually become the house of a democracy that Armenia’s citizens secretly hope for.
Yet, despite president Serz Sarkissian’s praise of the flamboyant chamber as a ride on the “path of democracy,” the new chamber of the National Assembly doesn’t even have a public gallery (for citizens who want to see their lawmakers in action) – the otherwise only reasonable need for a makeover. Even the media is complaining from the glassed cubicals they have been assigned. This is a house of and for oligarchs, not a national assembly.
I would expect my blog to be banned in Turkey and in Azerbaijan, but not in Iran. Yet, according to a friend who lives in Tehran, Iran’s regime has blocked access to my blog (even though I have commended Iran’s treatment of minority Christian monuments). But then there is Ahmadinejad who doesn’t like, I assume, the following things I have written.
When the Yerevan State University in Armenia gave Ahmadinejad an honorary degree, I disagreed with the decision but admitted that “Iran’s president really needed a degree.”
But I was nicer to Ahmadinejad on another occasion:
“Of course a few would defend Ahmadinejad’s sinister denial of the Holocaust, but comparing him to Hitler and calling him “the evil” is pretty silly…. How is Ahmadinejad worse from Sudan’s president who is massacring millions of people? Why don’t we invade Sudan for committing a genocide?”
OK, I did have a post called “How to Screw Ahmadinejad on Videos.”
Whether my blog deserves to be banned in Iran or not, I don’t know. But I will take the ban as a compliment. Thank you for the honor, Mr. Dictator.
My 6-year-old niece brought up a discussion of societal corruption this week while riding with her parents the public minibus – known as “Marshrutka” in Armenia and in other ex-Soviet countries.
She unintentionally prompted a democratization discussion by singing a song for the passengers who enthusiastically clapped at the end. One of the older woman passengers asked my niece, “When will you be performing on stage?”
“It is $1,000 to perform on stage,” answered my niece – suggesting that the answer was “never.”
The passengers got angry at a society where a 6-year-old talented child knows she has little prospects to succeed since the charge for a single performance is $1,000.
Does talent matter? My niece has been attending a world-famous children’s sing group/school in Armenia for a few years. She is one of the two, if not the only, student who has been continuously receiving straight “A”s, and her teachers call her “a child with exceptional talent.” But to participate in a local national festival with a solo performance, group parents need to pay $1,000 for production, dress, etc. And the only qualification for students to participate in the performance is to come up with the $1,000. So talent, in this case, matters not.
To appease the mashrutka passengers, my niece said, “Don’t worry; I am going to leave Arevik anyway.” The passengers got more concerned, “No, please don’t!” The woman, who had sparked the discussion by asking when my niece was going to perform on stage, said, “You will succeed no matter what. Don’t worry.”
Isn’t something wrong in a society where a 6-year-old knows that the price for “success” is $1,000?
Five months after the war with Russia over South Ossetia, Georgian authorities have reportedly arrested two members of its Armenian minority on suspicion of espionage and forming an armed gang. Underrepresented in the local government of a region where they make up the majority, some Armenian demands for autonomy of Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region (map) are once again being heard.
Realarmenia posts an announcement by an Armenian organization in Georgia, detailing the charges:
On January 22, 2009 the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia detained Grigor Minasyan, the director of the Akhaltskha Armenian Youth Center of Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia and Sargis Hakobjanyan, the chairman of “Charles Aznavour” charitable organization. They were charged with “preparation of crime”, according to Article 18 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, and “formation or leading of a paramilitary unit” (Part 1 of Article 223) and “espionage” (Part 1 of Article 314).
The announcement also reads:
The «Yerkir» Union considers these arrests as a deliberate provocation by the Georgian authorities, aimed at deterioration of the situation in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and worsening the Armenian-Georgian relations…Only a democratic Georgia, respecting its ethnic diversity, can avoid further disruption and guarantee the sustainable development of the country.
While XUSSR NEWS reminds of earlier arrests of ethnic Armenians in Georgia, there is little information in the conventional media about the new development and limited discussion in the blogosphere.
Nevertheless, The Caucasian Knot is concerned by the latest developments, and particularly by what is considers nationalist statements made by some in Armenia suggesting for Javakheti’s independence from Georgia.
[Think-tank] Mitq […] continues to play the nationalist card by warning of a second Armenian Genocide [in Georgia]. The same news site carries a report quoting a former Armenian Ambassador who not only lays claim to the region, but potentially risks encouraging a new armed conflict.
And as Armenian nationalists openly boast that “after Karabakh, Javakhk is next,” more diplomatic initiatives and sensitive handling by both Yerevan and Tbilisi seems more necessary than ever.
The blog, nonetheless, acknowledges problems in the region and especially with Council of Europe demands to repatriate Meskhetian Turks deported from the region by Stalin in 1944. Other bloggers in Armenia staged a mock funeral in 2008 outside the Georgian Embassy in protest at an ongoing dispute over church property in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
As an indication of some concerns that Armenians have about the level of cultural rights in Georgia, smbatgogyan [AM] has detailed an Armenian textbook published in Georgia with countless typos and grammatical errors.
Գնացել էի գյուղ, որը գտնվում է Վրաստանում` Ջավախքում: Այնտեղ արդեն մի-քանի տարի է, ինչ դպրոցներում փորձում են վերացնել հայերենը: Սակայն նրանց մոտ ոչինչ չստացվեց` ծնողները հրաժարվեցին իրենց երեխաներին քիմիա, աշխարհագրություն և համաշխարհային պատմություն սովորեցնել վրացերենով: …Վրաստանի կրթության նախարարությունը սկսել է հայերեն լեզվով դասագրքեր տպել Վրաստանի հայկական դպրոցների համար և պարտադրում է ուսանել այդ գրքերով: Ահա այդ գրքերից մեկը…:
…I went to a village in Georgia’s Javakhk [region]. [The Georgian authorities] have been trying to eliminate the Armenian language at schools there. But they were unsuccessful: parents refused to let their children learn chemistry, geography and world history in Georgian…. Georgia’s ministry of education has started to print textbooks in Armenian and requires to use them at school [as opposed to textbooks published in Armenia]. Here is one of those books…
The blog posts the cover of a mathematics textbook for second-grade students with the large title containing two typos in the word “mathematics.”
Interestingly, an earlier post dealt with translating textbooks into minority languages in Georgia. Writing for TOL Chalkboard, Swiss-Armenian journalist and regional analyst Vicken Cheterian detailed the project.
When we […] carried out bilingual education studies in Georgia […] we wondered how the images of minorities were reflected in the pages of Georgian history textbooks[…].
Their report […] found something startling: Armenians and Azeris in Georgia were by and large absent from Georgian history books. When they were noted, it was in a negative sense.
A workshop held in November  […] concluded that the Georgian Education Ministry is moving forward in its efforts to change the way history is taught. At the event […] Georgian educators presented their ongoing project to develop new textbooks with the aim of giving more space to minorities in the official version of history presented to youngsters from majority and minority linguistic communities.
These new texts should begin appearing soon in Armenian and Azeri schools, and be in use in all history classes in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli by 2011.
[…]Georgian history teachers and authors are moving from a position of negation of ethnic minorities to one of recognition. But important obstacles remain in the path toward an integrated narrative of history in which minorities move from being the “other” coexisting with “us” into being part of society.
…[I]n a turbulent political climate following the catastrophic August war [with Russia], Georgian education authorities and many educators continue to press for change.
Will the process of “change” include enough Armenians and Azeris so that relations, let alone words, are not lost in translation?
By the end of the week, my family and friends around the world won’t ask me “where is it?” when I tell them I live in Denver.
In a few hours, the Democratic National Convention will start in a city that last year had over 12 million overnight visitors. Still, Denver is not, yet, as famous as New York, Chicago, Dallas or Los Angeles.
But with its beautiful architecture and nature, Colorado’s capital and largest city Denver will quickly win hearts. The nearby Red Rocks, the beautiful State Capitol (where I work), yummy restaurants and cozy bars offer locals and visitors exceptional pleasure and leisure.
Dating back to 1858, Denver is a century and a half old. It became the state capital after Golden and Colorado City lost their bid. It was a simple decision – Denver had more women than any other city in the state.
More women – more rights. In 1893, women in Colorado won their right to vote – only the second in the nation. In 1894, three women were elected to serve in the House of Representatives. Before them, no woman had served as a senator or representative anywhere else in the United States.
In 1908, when the Democratic National Convention met in Denver for the first time, women were allowed to be delegates at the convention for the first time. It wasn’t until 1920, though, when the federal government extended the right to vote to all women.
Along with progressive history, Colorado has darks sides too. In 1864, Colorado volunteers (who thought they were fighting in the Civil War) exterminated an entire peaceful camp of Native Americans at Sand Creek. And in the 1920s, Colorado’s governor was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
With a diverse history, Colorado isn’t ethnically very diverse. Denver is the exception, where along with white Americans you will see Americans from all races and of all countries. Perhaps this diversity is what makes Denver so hospitable. Hospitality in Denver is almost as good as in Armenia.
Speaking of Armenians, many people get surprised when they find a quarter-century-old Armenian Genocide monument-plaque at the Colorado State Capitol. And although the Armenian community is not very large (perhaps 4,000 in and around Denver), its roots are very old.
Once I came across to a January 27, 1884, article in the local Rocky Mountain News. It talked about four Armenians, originally from what is now eastern Turkey, who had come from Italy. In Denver, they had become merchants. But in their hearts, they had always stayed Armenians and dreamed of returning to their homeland. Their hope was to return to Armenia: “My brother feels as I do, that in our own beautiful land in Asia Minor lies our destiny and it may be that near our old home we shall find at last the ancient site of Eden.”
Had they returned to Armenia, they would have been killed either in the Hamidian massacres or in the Genocide of 1915. I don’t know if they returned or not.
A number of Armenian friends – many of them with the media – are visiting Denver for the Convention this week. Voice of America is planning to interview local Armenians and guests.
I learned from the U.S. Embassy last month that Armenia had two-member delegation traveling to Denver for the Democratic National Convention.
WELCOME to all who are in Denver this week.
Timid and emotional, Georgia’s Mikhail Saakashvili is no longer the confident democratic president the South Caucasus leader was a few weeks ago. Underestimating the right of might, his wish to win back breakaway South Ossetia has become a nightmare in his ex-Soviet country. In an ironic way, Saakashvili might have strengthened Russia instead.
“When the president ordered to attack Tskhinvali [the capital of South Ossetia], we knew then we were doomed,” told a Georgian woman to Newsweek. “How come he didn’t realize that?” Saakashvili might have recognized the hardships that Ossetian and Georgian families were going to face in the face of the military action, but he either didn’t realize Russia’s role in Eurasia or hoped for American military build up in his country.
Understandably, Saakashvili is popular in Georgia right now. During wars, people tend to support their leader, especially when the enemy is someone considered long-rooted colonizer. But the war, despite the de jure cease fire, is not going to help Georgia in the short run. Perhaps Saakashvili thought it might help Georgia in the long run. Here are some convictions that might have had a role in the Georgian president’s decision.
Assumption 1. Saakashvili takes his democratically-elected (while forgetting his not-so-democratic crackdown on the opposition) status a privilege. To some extent it is true, but right is not always might in the realpolitik – especially when you are the president of an entire country.
Assumption 2. Saakashvili thinks his western education and pro-western attitude is an extraordinary asset. Having a degree from Columbia doesn’t change the world imperial order.
Assumption 3. States’ protection of “territorial integrity” is the West’s (especially the United States’) most-adored principle. Even in not-so-U.S.-friendly countries, like Bolivia, the State Department most of the time defends “territorial integrity.” (“[W]hy on earth should arbitrary lines drawn up by Stalin be the basis for statehood in the 21st century?” would respond Ossetians).
Having the above convictions, these are two scenarios that might have crossed Saakashvili’s mind.
Scenario 1. U.S. Military build up in Georgia would follow a Russian action after provoking the latter to attack Ossetia. This would be a perfect opportunity to invite NATO and U.S. soldiers to Georgia (forgetting that the U.S. has already has a front with Russia with the NATO bases in eastern Turkey).
The bases could be used in a possible strike against Iran (especially if Saakashvili’s old friend John McCain becomes the president, and especially if Azerbaijan continues being an authoritarian country, and, thus, proving to be an unsuitable U.S. ally).
Scenario 2. Given the history of Ajaria (another breakaway region that Saakashvili was able to reunite with Georgia without a single bullet), Georgia’s respect in the West (Bush visited Tbilisi a few years back) for its democratic image, and Georgia’s possible prospects to become more energy-independent from Russia due to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Saakashvili might have thought Russia would either ignore the attack on South Ossetia or would try to negotiate with Georgia.
Neither the above nor any other scenario would have been beneficial for Georgia. The attack on South Ossetia was a perfect opportunity for Russia to showcase its power and new role in the region and in the world. Few political analysts would have expected inaction from Russia. So Saakashvili must have expected counterattack as well, but he either overestimated his abilities or underestimated Russia’s capable aspirations. Or he had a long-term vision of Iranian invasion. In either case, neither thought makes him a good leader for his people.
Speaking of the people, the latter were the last thing that either Saakashvili or Russia cared about. Some time back Saakashvili skillfully fought racism in his country by saying, “For those in Georgia who hate Armenians, I will be an Armenian; for those who hate Azeris, I will be an Azeri. People have said I am Ossetian. I will gladly be an Ossetian. I will be a Jew as well, and this will be a great honor for me.” One wouldn’t t attack South Ossetia out of love for Ossetians, would they?
Russia’s rhetoric was even more ironic. Claiming that it was defending its citizens, Russia came to “protect” a people who are generally treated as second-class citizens, to say the least, in Moscow. Like the rest of the people from the South Caucasus, Ossetians are part of the Russia’s “blacks,” people without blond hair who are often killed on the streets for simply not looking ethnic Russians. While it is not hard to understand racism among bitter and uneducated youth, Russian government’s inaction to prevent or even fully prosecute hate crimes in Moscow and other cities is inexcusable.
Double-standards and hypocrisy is no news in politics. But even if Scenario 1 works and the U.S. moves in, Georgia’s people and their neighbors are not going to win in the long run. Small states working for a superpower don’t win. They need to work with superpowers, all of them. That’s one lesson Saakashvili didn’t learn at Columbia.
In a step closer to totalitarianism, the government in ex-soviet Azerbaijan has imprisoned another journalist not in line with official views of the establishment that praises the oil-rich country as “an example of tolerance.”
According to the Associated Press, editor of the minority Talysh Sado Novruzali Mammadov was sentenced to10-years in prison for “treason.” The agency reports that “[p]rosecutors accused [Mammadov and the administrator of the newspaper, Elman Guliyev] of Talysh nationalism and undermining Azerbaijan’s statehood. The Talysh live in the south of the former Soviet republic and have close cultural ties to neighboring Iran. Guliyev acknowledged in court that the paper had received $1,000 per month from Talysh organizations in Iran.”
The conviction of indigenous Talysh activists comes a week after a Christian priest was arrested in Azerbaijan. According to Baptist Standard, “Hamid Shabanov, a Baptist pastor in Aliabad, Azerbaijan, was arrested June 20 .”
Azerbaijan’s ironic self-image of “heaven of tolerance” is dimming day by day, especially that oppression in the Muslim country has shifted from being exclusively anti-Armenian. Editor of the now-banned Real Azerbaijan Eynulla Fatullayev, who had indirectly challenged Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian rhetoric, is serving an eleven-year sentence for charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. Emin Husseinov, director of the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, was badly beaten last week in Azerbaijan. The Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety was founded by Idrak Abassov, the independent Azeri journalist who confirmed for a British publication a few years ago that the medieval Armenian cemetery of Djulfa had disappeared in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave.
While arrests in Azerbaijan in the name of anti-Armenianism have received little coverage in the West due to the sensitive conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, the ongoing oppression in Azerbaijan against the Talysh and other minorities suggests that the fascist nationalism is not simply a reaction to losing the 1990s’ war to Armenia.
But as Azerbaijan pumps a lot of oil in the face of a $4/gallon gas crisis in the United States, democracy may be the last thing America would care about in Baku.
Asst. U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Fried has testified in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee on the South Caucasus countries.
In the introduction, Fried set the tone of the discussion. Talking about the South Caucasus countries’ relationship with NATO (which means alienation from Russia), he said:
Georgia has made a choice to join NATO. The United States and the nations of NATO welcome this choice, and Georgia’s neighbors should respect it. Azerbaijan has chosen to develop its relations with NATO at a slower pace, and we respect its choice. Armenia’s situation is different, due to its history and currently complicated relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and we respect its choice as well.
Speaking about Azerbaijan, Fried said that “Azerbaijan has had the world’s fastest growing economy for three consecutive years.” Talking about Nagorno-Karabakh, he said “While we support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status must be determined through negotiations and a spirit of compromise that respects international legal and political principles.” By “legal [principle] Fried means “territorial integrity,” by “political principles” he means “self-determination.” In other words, he hopes there is a golden mean to the conflict of the two. Fried finished the presentation on Azerbaijan by referencing the recent anti-Armenian rhetoric. “We hope that the Azerbaijani government will avoid the temptation of thinking that renewed fighting is a viable option. In our view, it is not. We have noted our concern with persistent bellicose rhetoric by some Azerbaijani officials.” Mr. Friend, again and again, failed to mention the 2005 destruction of the Djulfa cemetery by Azerbaijan. I will send him an e-mail shortly.
Talking about Armenia, Fried referenced the genocide by saying that Turkey needs to recognize it while Armenia needs to guarantee that it will not territorial claims against Turkey (ironically, official Armenia has always done the latter.
In Fried’s words:
Reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey, however, will require dealing with sensitive, painful issues. Turkey needs to come to terms with a dark chapter in its history: the mass killings and forced exile of up to 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire. That will not be easy, just as it has not been easy for the United States to come to terms with dark periods of our own past. For its part, Armenia must be ready to acknowledge the existing border and disavow any claim on the territory of modern Turkey, and respond constructively to any efforts Turkey may make.
The report went into great detail describing Armenia’s post election unrest. It said in part:
When peaceful mass protests followed the disputed vote, the United States and others pressed continuously for the government of Armenia to refrain from responding with force. However, on March 1, within hours of formal assurances by the Armenian government that they would avoid a confrontation, police entered the square. Ensuing clashes later in the day between demonstrators and security personnel led to at least 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Mr. Ter-Petrossian was taken to his residence by security forces, where he appeared to remain under de facto house arrest for weeks. A State of Emergency (SOE) was declared in Yerevan. Freedom of assembly and basic media freedoms were revoked. Opposition newspapers were forced to stop publishing and news websites were blocked, including Radio Liberty. The government then filled the information void with articles and broadcasts disseminating the government version of events and attacking the opposition. While it was alleged that some protesters were armed before the March 1 crackdown, there have been no convictions to date on such charges.
Ironically, Fried finished his remarks on Armenia by connecting the recent unrest (and the need to resolve it) to the absence of a US ambassador to Armenia (the Democratic-controlled U.S. senate has refused to appoint an Ambassador who refuses to refer to the Armenian Genocide as such).
Summarizing Georgia’s political situation, Fried said “Georgia’s young democracy has made progress, but Georgia needs to make more progress if it is to live up to the high standards that it has set for itself. The United States will help as it can to support democratic reform, urging the Georgian authorities to take seriously their ambition to reach European standards of democracy.”
The rest of the talk on Georgia was a detailed condemnation of Russia’s pressure on the ex-Soviet republic:
Moscow has in recent years put economic and political pressure on Georgia: closing their common border; suspending air and ground transport links; and imposing embargoes against exports of Georgian wine, mineral water, and agricultural goods. This year, despite recently lifting some of the economic and transport embargoes, Moscow has intensified political pressure by taking a number of concrete steps toward a de facto official relationship with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Russian peacekeeping forces have been deployed since the early 1990s – up to 3,000 in Abkhazia, and 500 Russians plus 500 North Ossetians in South Ossetia. In March, Russia announced its unilateral withdrawal from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) sanctions on Abkhazia, which would allow Russia potentially to provide direct military assistance (though the Russian government has offered assurances that it will continue to adhere to military sanctions). On April 16, then-President Putin issued instructions calling for closer ties between Russian ministries and their Abkhaz and South Ossetian counterparts. Russian investors are known to be buying property in Abkhazia in disregard of Georgian law. Some of these properties may have belonged to displaced persons, making their eventual return even more difficult. Russian banks maintain correspondent relationships with unlicensed and virtually unregulated Abkhaz banks, an open invitation to money launderers.
Interestingly, if you take Fried’s words for real there is no discrimination against minorities in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. While the U.S. State Department official repeatedly refers to “separatists,” there are no talk about discrimination against minorities and destruction of minority culture in either of the South Caucasus republics.
The report also lacks mentioning human trafficking, which is very prevalent in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Fighting and preventing human trafficking is a major step of building democracy.
The Q&A transcript hasn’t been posted as of June 18, 2008.
As I have mentioned before, I will be on a panel discussing the post-election unrest in Armenia this weekend. I hope I will meet some of you in New York during the symposium. For those of you who cannot attend, below is an abstract of my talk:
When Armenia erupted in violence earlier this year, many were hesitant to believe reports of deaths and destruction. Few expected violence in a tiny republic that has been harshly affected by an ongoing economic blockade and a recent war with neighboring Azerbaijan.
But the assumption that Armenians are united given their collective experience of oppression was challenged on the streets of Yerevan. With cries for “Justice,” many Armenians in their homeland protested corruption and a perceived conspiracy by government officials, most of whom were from the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Many Armenians in the Diaspora, concerned with their historic homelands image and national security, viewed the movement as one destabilizing Armenia.
While it is correctly argued that many of the protestors hoped to receive personal gain by supporting the opposition, the Levon Ter-Petrosyan team for many others seemed to be a medium to express outrage against unaccountable and unresponsive government. The opposition was the mean and not the end. Conversely, much of the outcry has been expressed in regional hatred, raising the question whether injustice can bring about justice.
More specifically, one wonders whether a government can change without a change in the society. What’s the relationship between institutions and the society? Which one holds the lead in transforming politics and traditions?
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