By Harutyun Tsatryan
Youth and the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan
Twelve political parties, which have as many young members and new faces as possible, are running in the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan to be held on September 23.
Yerevan, which has no mayor and no active Council of Elders, is entering the stage of active campaigning after the first week of campaigning. The campaigning stage was launched on September 10 and will end on September 21. For almost two weeks (12 days to be exact), more than 853,000 citizens eligible to vote will listen to the nominees as they share their visions for the development of Yerevan in different formats (television, meetings with residents of the city’s districts, door-to-door, with the help of campaigning members of political parties and billboards…)
Thirteen political parties (9 political parties and 4 alliances of political parties) had submitted documents to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) within the fixed time period (until 29 August 2018). However, on September 3, there were 11 political parties since the “Democratic Liberal Union of Armenia” political party decided not to run in the elections. During these days, candidates from 3 different political parties have submitted self-recusals, including Hasmik Igityan (Prosperous Armenia Party), Mariam Hovsepyan (Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun) and Henrik Badanyan (Haik (Haikazunner) Party). And so, a total of 12 political parties (8 political parties and 4 alliances of political parties) will be running in the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan.
What is noticeable is the fact that there are many young candidates and candidates starting their political careers. This makes the elections more important in order to understand what kind of a youth policy the 2,800-year-old Yerevan will have in the future. In this context, what is important is the fact that young people are the most active component of the campaigns of the political parties and are in charge of raising awareness about the elections.
Let’s touch upon the 12 parties running in the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan in alphabetical order (in Armenian) and try to understand what the role of youth and the youth policy will be in Yerevan based on the parties’ political platforms.
Of course, perhaps there are many other issues in Yerevan, but ERITASARD is mainly focused on youth policy and the role of youth for now.
The first eight days of the campaigns are in the past. During this period, there was a good opportunity to sum up all the points of the political platforms that will encourage the young people of Yerevan to be more actively involved in municipal management. However, this does not mean that all the political parties running in the elections have youth policies.
Number 1 in alphabetical order in Armenian is “Bargavach Haiastan” (Prosperous Armenia) Party. The word “youth” is not even mentioned in the pre-election platform of this political party. Importance is not directly attached to the role of youth in the 14-point plan for priorities, even though the need for new specialists for the development of Yerevan has been mentioned in several speeches given during the campaign. Will those new specailists be young people, or will the political party trust more experienced figures? There is no definite answer to this question. The first number in the political party’s electoral list is Naira Zohrabyan.
Number 2 on the ballot for the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan will be the “Yerevani Hanrutyun” (Community of Yerevan) alliance of political parties. The alliance’s pre-election platform is mainly presented in the format of community meetings. There is no online access to the platform, but it mainly represents a model of municipal management in which the role of youth is not particularly underlined. The electoral list of the “Community of Yerevan” alliance of political parties is headed by non-partisan Anahit Tarkhanyan, who mainly expresses concerns about effective municipal management and increase of the budget during pre-election meetings.
Number 3 on the ballot is the “Yerevantsiner” (Citizens of Yerevan) alliance of political parties. The pre-election platform is mainly presented during community meetings, but once again, there is no online access to the platform. There are several issues in the focus of this political party, including the availability of modern public transporation. The first number on the electoral list is Deputy of the National Assembly Ararat Zurabyan, who was once the head of Kentron district of Yerevan.
Number 4 on the ballot is “Yerkir Tsirani” Party, which was established a year ago and occupied seats in Yerevan Municipality with a couple of representatives following the elections held in 2017. Young artists are presented in the political party’s pre-election platform. If the political party has the chance to be represented in the Council of Elders based on the results of the elections, as stated in the pre-election platform, “Yerevan Municipality will also provide material assistance to young artists to publish and disseminate their works and to present them to different layers of society”. Young people are mainly campaigning for the party, and the electoral list is headed by Zaruhi Postanjyan.
“Zharangutyun” (Heritage) Party is Number 5 on the ballot. Young people are mentioned twice in the pre-election platform. In one case, it is clearly mentioned that “in the short run, we deem it important to establish at least another 3 educational-creative and engineering centers for teens and young people with the example of TUMO Center for Creative Technologies in the Nor Nork District, Erebouni Mass and Malatia-Sebastia District”, and in another case, the political party will foster “business plans for the society and aimed at solving the housing issues of young families and families in dire need of improvement”. Of course, this is all the political party has to say about the youth, but we can’t claim that the political party won’t trust young people with municipal management. Within the scope of the past eight days of the campaigning stage, there are many young members or activists of the political party. The electoral list is headed by Raffi Hovannisian.
The “Zhoghovrdavarakan Ughi” (Democratic Way) Party is also running in the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan. With the slogan “Yerevan is me, Yerevan is You, Yerevan is Us”, this political party views the increase in the number of green zones in Yerevan and the solution to the problems with garbage disposal as priority issues. The role of youth in municipal management is not clearly stated in the political party’s pre-election platform, which is available online. It is posted on the political party’s Facebook page, allowing voters to learn about the political party’s pre-election “promises” not just through community meetings. The electoral list consists of 33 people and is headed by Manuel Gasparyan. The political party is Number 6 on the ballot.
Number 7 on the ballot for the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan is the “Im Qayle” (My Step) alliance of political parties, the electoral list of which includes several young political figures. Despite that, there is no special focus on youth in the pre-election platform of the “Im Qayle” alliance. Youth are mentioned only once in the
47-point platform presenting the vision for municipal management. Point 38 of the platform reads as follows: “To create cultural centers where young creators will have the opportunity to lease art studios and organize exhibitions, concerts and other events at affordable prices”. The existence of active representatives of various youth organizations in the alliance’s electoral list instills hope that the inclusivity of youth in the city’s management will not be overlooked, if the party running in the elections under the leadership of Hayk Marutyan wins in the elections.
The “Louys” (Light) alliance of political parties is Number 8 on the ballot for the elections to be held on September 23. The example of the other political parties, that is, not having a policy on young Armenians of Yerevan in the pre-election platform, is an appropriate example for the “Louys” alliance of political parties, which is running in the elections with the slogan “Yerevan: City of Light”. The alliance’s pre-election platform does not mention or specify how the alliance sees youth participation in the activities of Yerevan Municipality. There is a sufficient number of young people included in the alliance’s electoral list, but in the campaigning stage, it is already noticeable that Artak Zeynalyan, who is number 1 on the alliance’s list, will be the main active person, if the alliance wins in the early elections.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, one of Armenia’s traditional political parties, is running in the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan with a new team that includes young people and people taking their first steps in the field of politics. The political party is number 9 on the ballot. Youth is mentioned twice in the pre-election platform of the political party that is running in the elections with the motto “Together for Yerevan”. In one case, “for Yerevan of the new generation”, the political team of the ARF-D promises “to assist gifted and talented young people in implementing their academic and creative programs”, and in another case, “for the caring and just Yerevan”, it “promises” “to develop and introduce a concept paper on social housing and provide young and multi-member families with apartments for free or for low rent”. Mikael Manukyan is number 1 on the political party’s electoral list.
“Haik” (Haikazunner) Party is number 10 on the ballot for the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan. The party’s pre-election platform is not available for the voters of the “new generation”, and there are not many young people participating in community meetings. It is not clear as to what kind of a youth policy the political party will lead and how involved youth will be in the decision-making processes in case of
winning in the upcoming elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan. Number 1 on the party’s electoral list is Gevorg Hovsepyan.
The Reformists Party is number 11 on the ballot. The party’s pre-election advertisements and community meetings instill hope that young people will not be ignored, but the party’s pre-election platform is not available online. It is hard to undersand how involved young people will be in the Council of Elders of Yerevan, if the Reformists Party wins in the elections. Artak Avetyan is number 1 on the party’s electoral list.
The last number (Number 12) on the ballot for the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan is “Orinats Yerkir” (Country of Law) Party. Out of the political parties running in the elections. “Orinats Yerkir” is the only one that has set aside youth policy in its pre-election platform. However, the engagement of young people in the Council of Elders of Yerevan and their participation in decision-making processes remains unclear since, in this case, the political party mainly expresses its desires. For instance, how will political party develop the “Youth of Yerevan” target program and how much funding does it imply? Nevertheless, “Orinats Yerkir” is the only political party, the pre-election platform of which features a paragraph in which the political party appreciates youth. Several young people are included in the political party’s pre-election list, and Mher Shahgeldyan is the first on the list.
P.S.: Before the end of the pre-election campaign, Eritasard online youth newspaper will also explore the electoral lists presented by the political parties and present the youngest candidates of the political parties running in the early elections of the Council of Elders of Yerevan.