There ‘s a great Armenian joke. “You know how they make macaroni? Well, you take a hole and wrap dough around it.” That’s exactly what they did in the Armenian Parliament following a massive renovation process which cost taxpayers more than $1.3 million US.The hall was closed for work in May and has since undergone major transformation. The former rectangular hall acquired an oval shape after reconstruction. Computers, monitors and microphones have been installed at every lawmaker’s desk.
In his welcoming remarks during the opening ceremony, Parliament Speaker Hovik Abrahamian compared the new chamber to the legendary Round Table in Camelot, arguing that it provides “a more democratic atmosphere for debate.”
“A round table has long been regarded as a symbol of cooperation and focused discussions,” the parliament speaker said.
One of my twitter friends sarcastically noted: “So apparently all this time, the only thing that’s kept Armenia from being a democracy is the lack of a round table!”
Indeed, talks about the role and importance of renovation in the Armenian parliament are only worth sarcastic notes. Everybody knows, that its far from representing the ‘will and aspirations’ of the Armenian people, and it’s simply funny to speak about ’round table’ concepts in Armenia’s oligarch-dominated Parliament, which only represents the interests of a handful of people.
Journalists have witnessed hundreds of examples, when MPs would vote instead of their neighbours, happily enforcing this or that law brought in parliament under oligarchic and government pressure, to be pushed through without much consideration, just push-buttoning.
Really, if you ask me, Armenia’s Parliament, is an empty shell, a hole, around which the macaroni dough is wrapped. No amount of computers, monitors and round tables can make this particular Parliament become a functional institution to balance power, debate useful laws or contribute to democratic development.
Next parliamentary elections are due in Armenia in 2012. Armenian political parties have already started campaigning.
Meanwhile, there are rumors, that President Serzh Sargsian is planning for a different type of parliament, where smart, well educated, young lawyers will be elected and today’s major oligarchs and businessmen, who are often semi-literate, won’t have a place in the renovated parliament chamber.
Given the way things happen in this country, the speculations sound close to reality and it might just work. But that will be yet another empty shell to complement the newly renovated, nice parliament with its computers and monitors and everything. Because everyone understands, that those young smart-ass MPs will only be elected with the support of today’s oligarchs and power circles, and will serve them with fidelity.
Someone needs to tell the authorities, that it’s the CONTENT that matters, not the design and packaging. But will anyone dare? And will the message get through?