Monday, 24 September

A Meeting Between Serzh Sargsyan and Levon Ter-Petrosyan Is Inevitable

At one point Serzh Sargsyan viewed the inclusion of Artur Baghdasaryan as the key to pacifying the level of domestic political turmoil. That hope merely lasted till March 1st; the operation at the Opera and the events that followed. The apparent continuation of the pacification process would be the coalition agreement. These steps naturally couldn’t serve as recipes for mitigating the domestic political tension; in fact they had the completely opposite result. These steps only served to intensify the tension. At the same time, Artur Baghdasaryan and the ARF-D lost their electorates. Given this, the already faceless Parliament became a laughing stock of a structure.

In these conditions, Serzh Sargsyan will not be able to govern the country. However adamantly the authorities maintain that all is normal, they will not be able to achieve this reality. Nothing can ever be normal here. The entire state structure is in a state of paralysis and limbo. The first stage commences on April 9th when President Kocharyan will no loner be able to issue commands.

On April 4th President Robert Kocharyan stated that, “The calling of special Parliamentary elections as a method to achieve dialogue is the most absurd idea ever proposed.” In reality, special elections are quite effective and probably the only legal means available to extricate the nation from the present situation. Kocharyan was absolutely against any negotiations with Levon Ter-Petrosyan. No one can state for sure whether Sargsyan agreed with Kocharyan on this stance or not. Contrary to Kocharyan, Sargsyan’s nature is to avoid conflict. The present President has always desired the presence of conflict. He feels comfortable operating in emergency situations, where he is able to make snap decisions on his own. He feels uncomfortable conferring with others, in hearing alternate opinions and discussing issues. In fact, Sargsyan shied away from entering into a debate with Kocharyan after the elections, preferring to leave Sargsyan to make decisions on his own till the very end of his term on April 9th. Those who know Sargsyan assert that he cannot last long in this state of affairs, as he prefers tranquility. The structures he has governed have always been in such periods of relative normalcy. He has always been able to smooth things over, to convince people to do the same. If the domestic political situation remains tense Sargsyan will be forced to voluntarily hand in his resignation. Physiologically, he won’t be able to withstand the pressure.

What can Serzh Sargsyan do after April 9th? On several occasions he has spoken about making core changes. Such core changes are out of the question given that the signing of the coalition agreement rules out such a possibility. It’s impossible to struggle against the oligarchic system and the shadow economy when the godfathers of that economy are in his circle and sit in the cabinets of the coalition government he himself created. During the past ten years the position of the oligarchs has been strengthened by their inclusion into the Parliament. They have been allocated a number of monopolies and several ministers and former ministers have joined the ranks of the oligarchs as working partners. No one can put their finger on what exactly differentiates former ministers from a given oligarch. In today’s National Assembly there are Deputies like Karen Jshmarityan, Davit Harutyunyan, Vardan Ayvazyan and others who have amassed millions by abusing their positions and have entered into a variety of business ventures. These named Deputies and the others in the Parliament cannot serve as the pillars of Sargsyan’s government.

Serzh Sargsyan is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand he realizes that the country, especially the middle-class, expect him to push-through a series of core changes. On the other hand, however, Sargsyan understands that he won’t be able to make good on his promises since on one in the circle around him will support such changes. This circle is like a spider web where everyone is connected to one another by a series of threads. Sargsyan is not in a position to sever those threads. In official circles, the person mentioned as the most likely candidate to become the next Prime Minister is an individual who enjoys no confidence in the society. Of course, the choice of individual to become the next Prime Minister could go a long way to mollify domestic political tensions. The names of the one or two such candidates residing out side of Armenia whose selection might have achieved such a result were quickly ruled out. And there is little doubt that these potential candidates for the post were ruled out by individuals in Sargsyan’s camp.

The only alternative left for the next president to extricate the nation from the current situation would be for him to issue a halt to the political witch-hunts immediately after taking the oath office. The presidential directive should be entitled accordingly - the directive to halt politically motivated witch-hunts. Those responsible for the events of March 1st must be held accountable for their actions. What transpired at the Opera that morning must be thoroughly investigated? Who organized the operation? What exactly took place that resulted in the death of seven civilians and one policeman? Our society hasn’t been presented with the truth. No one, not even the rank and file policemen, know the circumstances in which one of their own was killed.

After releasing the members of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s campaign headquarters from prison, the President must meet with Ter-Petrosyan and discuss the possibility of holding special Parliamentary elections. The most logical scenario would be to hold such elections a year from now. This would present all sides the opportunity to prepare.

Serzh Sargsyan would thus be allowed ample time to implement the core changes he’s promised and if he wins over the confidence of the people the party he leads will once again win a majority of seats in the National Assembly. In this scenario he would have to emerge as the guarantor of truly free elections. For his part, Levon Ter-Petrosyan would be able to set-up the necessary structures and create a united front to ensure an election result allowing him to be a player in the Parliament’s decision-making process. Ter-Petrosyan would also be in a position to prepare for the next round of presidential elections.

Many might view this scenario as a bit overly romantic. Perhaps, I just don’t know. But all of us, without exception, understand that Armenia is neither the private property of either Serzh Sargsyan or Levon Ter-Petrosyan. If both these politicians truly care about Armenia they will do all in their power to halt the current process daily weakening the nation.

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