After the results of the AUA Undergraduate Student Council elections were announced, rumors have taken over the AUA campus. Though, I would not call these rumors, because they were spoken aloud, as that is the ordinary way of conducting elections. The conversations concern pressuring voters, candidates voting instead of their friends or the candidates observing the voting process.
Out of my journalistic curiosity, I talked to many students on this topic to understand the validity of such accusations. No student refuted these rumors. I received almost the same answer from everyone; candidates “kindly forced” their friends to vote for them or just voted instead of them.
It appears, that for students, elections are a minor event, so it is not a big deal to vote for your friend during the student council elections, your neighbor during the parliamentary elections, or to vote for the candidate that you are “asked“ to vote for during the presidential elections.
No, people, elections are a real thing. It is not a game with winners and losers; it is an act of identifying the most intelligent, active leaders that realize the importance of the student’s voice. These are the ones that can adequately represent students in and out of the University, raise the needs and concerns, have the most effective strategies for solving issues concerning students and have the integrity and accountability to serve . The first sign of respect is the ability to conduct a fair campaign and voting process. It seems that some of the candidates failed to do so.
With regard to the briber and the bribed, the responsibility for such crimes equally lies on the candidates that undertook illegal actions, on students that did not resist and caved under the pressure, as well as on their fellow candidates that were aware yet did not stop the violations.
An educational institution like AUA is perceived among people as an oasis, which tries to promote democratic values, educate citizenship and train competent professionals for the country. However, on its own, it cannot make overall changes neither in the educational system nor in any other sphere in Armenia.
What we witnessed now, is how this oasis has become assimilated with the unhealthy, corrupted desert. The akhper type of relations has crept into the affairs of the University.
The concept of citizenship is not nurtured in our generations, so the weakness of civil society in Armenia is understandable, though unacceptable. However, how can people born in an independent country, supposedly with the desire to embrace independence, prefer the primitive, criminalized ways of conduct?
Eventually, this is the generation that will take charge of governing the country. It is time for Armenia to have a strong generation that can draw out the country from the whirlpool of social degradation. I am terrified of the risk of having another generation choosing dirty methods of conduct and stunting Armenia’s development.
I sincerely hope that further misconduct and violations by the candidates will not surface. Though, a thorough investigation is expected to be conducted.
There are no defined procedures for cases of violations during the elections. Still, I will have the courage to claim that, if all these facts are confirmed, the elections of USC 2017-18 must be considered invalid.