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February 8, 2012
Young activists look for their place in Armenian politics
Young activists look for their place in Armenian politics

Azatuhi Simonyan, 20, is one of the young parliamentarians of the Youth Parliament (YP) in Armenia, which was created in May, 2011. The parliament has 131 deputies who represent political parties, NGOs, university student councils and minority groups.

"I like the idea of youth parliament, since I see it as a place for young professionals' self expression, the opportunity to enter into political process rather than blindly follow it on TV news," says Azatuhi.

Youth Parliament is a place where Armenian young activists learn how to argue for their plans, motions and get a better image on formulation of a draft law and its adoption.

Anna Barseghyan, 21, represents her native Aragatsotn province in the YP. "The major incentive is the opportunity to have an input in the form of law by presenting certain elements from my own system of values," she says.

Anna believes that this is an excellent place for the parties to include independent young people in their parties, mentioning that those youngsters may help them lead active election campaigns. Nonetheless, she does not consider that their actions have brought any changes in the political sphere up to now.

Since the day of its establishment the Youth Parliament has discussed 15 motions and all 15 have been adopted, however none of these laws have been discussed in the Armenian National Assembly (NA) yet.

"The National Assembly is entitled to include those laws in its own agenda in order to discuss them. The proposals should be considered at first in the Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, but there have been no step from their side. We are much concerned when they will finally discuss them," says Azatuhi.

Maga Hakobyan, 24, who has been selected as a YP member from Heritage oppositional party, says that the percentage of the parties' involvement in the Youth Parliament is decided according to the percentage represented in the parliament. Hakobyan mentioned that the rest of the youth in YP are informally from the Prosperous and Republican coalitional parties.

"In general it carries an artificial role. It is not meant to change anything in the society and has more resemblance to a school which aims at producing generation of parliamentarians," says Maga.

138 Today the political activity of Armenian youth is divided into two directions. There are youth who realize their activities through political parties and there are those involved in civil activities.

Arevik Martirossyan is a civic activist. ''What we call civic activism, is perceived, as political activism in western world. As a rule, the difference between civic and political activism is put only in post Soviet area, where the word "civic" is associated only with political parties and positions," she says.

According to her, there is no political platform in Armenia. Nowadays civil movement has much more potential of having authority and trust than any political party.

Arevik does not consider the pre-election period of great importance. The only important thing is the media accessibility. The increase of public interest increases during this period, the government becomes weaker at the same time.

"Today youth can change everything. But firstly it will be better for them to change their consciousness. The moment they change it, they will start changing the rest of the world. When a person regards himself as an important subject, he starts demanding and wants to decide for his own."

Armenian civic activists have a renewed self-assurance these days, as they speak of their success with stopping the construction of hydropower station on the Trchkan waterfall.

Article by Zara Israelyan, Mariam Muradyan, Lusine Poghosyan, Christina Grigoryan and Anushik Avetyan

This article was one of the assignments at the Youth in the 21st Century: Debating and Producing Media Workshop organized by Open Society Foundations-Armenia, Open Society Foundations Youth Program and IDEA (International Debate Education Association) from Jan 26 to Feb 6, 2012 at Aghveran. The authors were participants at the workshop.


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