On Monday U.S. Embassy unveiled a new program that will help Armenian government in fight against assholes on grassroots level, as well as in government institutions. The new “Anti-asshole Action Project” (AAP) is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development.
USAID Mission Director introduced the new program: “Our new strategy is to combine all the anti-corruption, anti-trafficking and anti-fraud programs into a single comprehensive anti-asshole initiative to address Armenia’s main challenge in democratic development. This program is expected to help Armenia follow its international commitment to combat assholes.”
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch provided the big picture of the program: “This is a part of U.S. democracy assistance to Armenia. The ultimate goal of this and similar projects in Georgia and Azerbaijan is to create an asshole-free South Caucasus.”
Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan welcomed the initiative of the U.S. partners. “This initiative perfectly complements our own efforts and specifically our ‘Anti-asshole National Strategy’ which is aimed to reduce percentage of assholes in government institutions and judiciary by 20% through 2010-2013.” Sargsyan also added: “We are happy to receive the valuable anti-asshole experience and mechanisms from our U.S. and E.U. partners.”
Russian Federation was quick to condemn the new project. Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko called the new program “provocative” and “undermining Russian-Armenian friendly ties.” “U.S. is once again trying to impose a pro-Western regime in Armenia advocating the anti-asshole sentiments. This is a direct involvement into state of affairs of our South Caucasus friend,” said Kovalenko. “The program seems to target our key partners in Armenia and bears an explicitly anti-Russian implications,” added the Russian diplomat.
The new anti-asshole program envisages creation of 11 Anti-asshole Advice Centers (ASSAC) in all marzes of Armenia and Yerevan equipped with lawyers who will consult and support victims of assholes on both local government and business levels. The Centers will not only help individual citizens, but will also seek to reform legislation to eliminate asshole loopholes allowing the vicious behavior.
Head of Transparency International, which implements the program in Armenia, Amalia Kostanyan shared hopes and concerns: “The project is really complicated, since Armenia suffers from system-level asshole syndrome and little can be done without political will of authorities. Unfortunately so far they [authorities] prefer to bluff the public and donors by prosecuting only low-rank assholes while the big shots remain immune to justice.”
Kostanyan also reminded that Armenia is currently ranked 109th out of 180 countries with similar asshole issues, while only 2 years ago the asshole barometer ranked Armenia 79th.
The new program was heavily criticized by head of one of the key parliamentary factions (preferred to remain anonymous) who denounced the anti-asshole program as an attempt to change regime: “The new program is an obvious step to implement a color revolution in Armenia. I’m not saying we support assholes, but we need an evolutionary process and generation change. By quick removal of assholes we undermine fragile government system of the country… It’s just too early.. we are not prepared.”
Sociologist Aharon Adibekyan brought arguments against radical anti-asshole measures calling this “an untimely initiative”. “Azerbaijan and Georgia are doing much worse on the asshole scale than Armenia. To compare, only some 20% of respondents in Yerevan identified themselves as assholes while in Azerbaijan and Georgia results have been 30 and 40 per cent respectively. The critical threshold after which country is in real trouble is 40 per cent which is not likely in the near future given our demographic tendencies.” Adibekyan also mentioned that 90% of Armenians are against the new anti-asshole programs. “People are just very conservative here. You can’t impose an anti-asshole agenda out of blue,” explained Adibekyan
Head of Public Chamber Vazgen Manukyan also harshly criticized the new effort. “I’m not sure what this is for and who is implied..” said Manukyan, “but I personally find it very insulting. I mean basically this program may appear to also harm some of the good guys who are by mistake perceived as assholes due to some.. you know… misunderstandings.”
Independent analyst Arthur Avtandilyan believes the anti-asshole program is not likely to find true favor with government. “Basically this is an offer to commit suicide for the government. Similar offers were proposed by U.S. in the past in form of “Free and Fair Elections” program which didn’t not work either. I don’t think this one has any bigger chances,” says Avtandilyan.
The new USAID program will also raise public awareness on threats of asshole behavior and will establish an anti-asshole HOT-LINE through which citizens will be able to receive confidential advice or schedule an appointment with ASSAC lawyers.