Smoke, Mirrors, and the Joker in the Pack: On Transitioning to Democracy and the Rule of Law in Post-Soviet Armenia

By Bravo, Karen E. | Houston Journal of International Law, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Smoke, Mirrors, and the Joker in the Pack: On Transitioning to Democracy and the Rule of Law in Post-Soviet Armenia


Bravo, Karen E., Houston Journal of International Law


  I. INTRODUCTION
     A. Transitioning From "Them" to "Us'"
     B. Armenia's Transition to Democracy

 II. ARMENIA AFTER THE U.S.S.R.
     A. Geography and History of Armenia
     B. Post-Soviet Political Developments; Conflicts & Consequences
     C. Political Leaders and Assassins
     D. Apparent Progress

III. DEMOCRACY IN ACTION? ARMENIA'S POST-SOVIET ELECTIONS
     A. Democracy and Elections
     B. Overview of Armenia's Post-Soviet Elections
     C. Post-Soviet Elections Violation Trends
     D. Theatrical Non-Reform Reform?
     E. Post-reform 2003 Election Violations
     F. Role of the International Community
     G. Implications of the 2003 Election Violations for
        Democracy in Armenia

 IV. ELECTORAL NARRATIVES
     A. Voting Armenian Style
     B. The Knock on the Door & Carousel Voting
     C. No Unchecked Ballots
     D. The Second Round: Observing the Vote
     E. The Second Round: Observing the Count

  V. THE RULE OF LAW: CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK AND THE ROLE
     OF THE JUDICIARY
     A. The Rule of Law
     B. Constitutional Framework and the Role of the Judiciary
     C. The 2005 Constitution--Theatrical Non-Reform Reform

 VI. THE JOKER IN THE PACK?
     A. Endogenous Suspects
     B. Exogenous Suspects

VII. CONCLUSION

VIII. APPENDIX

With smoke and mirrors the entertainer-magician creates images that thrill, delight, or confound the audience. (1)

In Armenia, the smoke and mirrors of shining words and the strategic adoption of progressive legislation hide the reality of stagnant democratization and rule of law reform that reflects a creeping authoritarianism (2) exemplified by the Russian Federation. (3)

In the deck of cards, the joker is the wild card--the unpredictable element that may trump all the other cards, and put the other players off balance--throwing, and perhaps winning, the game. (4)

Appearing and disappearing among the smoke and mirrors that project the image of Armenian democracy and rule of law reform is the joker which, to date, has blocked Armenia's transition.

The joker's identity is unknown and perhaps unknowable. Is it a cadre of power holders? Is it the hidden power behind the 1998 parliamentary assassinations? Or is it the psychological mindset of powerlessness and alienation, (5) bureaucratic paralysis and corruption lingering from the Soviet era? Is the joker the dominance of the Executive Branch enshrined in the post-Soviet Constitution, with its accompanying abasement of the Judiciary and Legislature? What of the intersection of the hopes and dreams of the Armenian Diaspora and the political power of its lobby with the reluctance of the Armenian power structure to concede power to the people?

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Transitioning From "Them" to "Us"

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) officially dissolved in 1991, and its component republics were set free to make their own sovereign way in the world. (6) These are called transitional countries. (7) The depth and breadth of the contemplated transition is breathtaking in its scope. (8) "Transitional" describes a movement: from communism to capitalism and democracy; from command and control economies and dependence to the free market and independence; from repression and acceptance to freedom and questioning; from constituent part to autonomous whole; and from represented to representing. (9)

In other words, transitioning from "them" to "us" (10)--to the mirror image of the idealization of Western capitalist democracies. After all, capitalism, democracy, and the West, had won the epic, decades-long battle of the Cold War. (11)

The complexities and challenges of the process of transition for the former Soviet Republics, now more than a decade and a half long, is evident in the disparate nature of their current circumstances. While Poland, the Baltic Republics (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), and the component parts of the former Czechoslovakia (the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary and Slovenia (formerly a constitutive republic of Yugoslavia) are now members of the European Union, others continue to struggle with the challenges of the post-Soviet reality.

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