At a congress of his ruling Republican Party on November 28, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian called for the transformation
of the party, which has been criticized by the opposition for gradually monopolizing state power and being a club for the rich.
In what seemed like a break with the party's past, Sarkisian argued for the "development of democratic institutions within the party," which he said is essential for the broader democratization of Armenia's political system.
"If any internal dissent within parties is stifled, examples of which we have seen on our political scene, then such a party will stifle any opposition after taking up the reins of power," he said. "This is not the path the Republican Party of Armenia should follow."
However, the 1,800 party members attending the conference did not seem to hear Sarkisian's lofty words.
The delegates unanimously reelected Sarkisian as party chairman. They rubber-stamped Sarkisian's proposed changes to the party's statutes without debate.
And, in what was a serious procedural violation, some delegates rushed to vote for Sarkisian's reelection even before his candidacy had been formally put forward.
Sarkisian need not look far to see the "examples" of his party's stifled internal dissent.
-- Michael Hirshman, Emil Danielyan, Karine Kalantarian