Sunday, 23 September

President Kocharyan’s defeat

Running the power structures for ten years, he got a grip on a number of levers. Various sectors of the economy came under his control. His was always decisive in appointing heads of power structures and other key officials. And during the recent elections, the political weight of Serge Sarkisyan, minister of defense for the last three years and now a parliament member, has grown substantially. Serge Sarkisyan has come out into the open, for the first time in his political career. Even during the Karabakh movement, he wouldn’t mix with the people. He participated in meetings and negotiations, but never kissed babies in front of everybody. This was a new phase -- the minister was compelled to do things alien to his nature because his political career was at stake. He staked everything and won, but his victory was not unconditional. No one knows what will happen in Armenia tomorrow.

Armenia is indeed an unpredictable country. Big powers are busy transforming the world, but Armenia is on the sidelines of every game. Crucial changes are occurring in the region, but Armenia is left out of these processes as well. This of course increases the chances of unpredictable developments. In internal politics, everything is taken into consideration except for the people, but there is a point beyond which the people do become a determining factor. And this point does not seem far away. Serge Sarkisyan the politician well understands what will happen if things go too far.

On May 25, 2003 the defense minister conquered the legislature and took power completely. The previous parliament had not been under Sarkisyan’s control --President Kocharyan held onto numerous levers. In this parliament, he has hardly any leverage. Hovik Abrahamyan, minister for local governance and a member of the RPA, candidly said after the elections, “The RPA achieved its goal and in the final analysis will have 30% of the seats, which combined with our majoritarian candidates and sympathizers will make up 73 seats.” If we accept the calculation of Hovik Abrahamyan, hardened in the executive, and we put aside the numbers announced by the Central Election Commission, then Serge Sarkisyan has 73 votes in parliament. The Republican Party will pass or reject any draft law in parliament based on Sarkisyan’s wishes and interests.

In reality, Robert Kocharyan is alone. No political force supports him at this point. His constitutional amendments were rejected. He will not be able to fulfill his campaign promises. It’s pointless to talk about the fight against corruption, since the National Assembly, in its present composition, will pass no laws directed against itself. The fight against the shadow economy can be considered a failure as well. Everyone who represents the shadow economy is in parliament.

The president has no political force in parliament to counterbalance Serge Sarkisyan. Most of the ARF Dashnaktsutiun faction will no longer, I think, believe the president’s promises, and even if they do, they are relatively powerless. A Kocharyan-Demirchyan rapprochement is impossible, too. Political forces who oppose Serge Sarkisyan are not numerous in the parliament - the ARF with 11 seats plus the Ardarutiun (Justice) Bloc with 17, and it’s unlikely that they will act as a united front.

The Republican Party will be taking care of all personnel issues. When asked by Radio Liberty if the ARF Dashnaktsutiun would assume any leading post in the power structures, Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan said, “No, because the only politicized portfolio among the power structures is the post of defense minister, which, naturally, we will not yield to anybody.” As for the positions of the heads of the Police and National Security Services, in the prime minister’s words, “These are not political positions and therefore will not be a subject for discussion with other political forces in the National Assembly.” The Republicans consider all posts to be theirs and cannot imagine any appointment without their approval. This is reality. The president of the country cannot decide for himself who the chief of the National Security Service will be - at best, he might be kept informed.

So what is Robert Kocharyan going to do? One general from Karabakh said of Kocharyan, “Back in Karabakh no one was able to predict what his next step would be. He is capable of drastic steps.”

After some time, Kocharyan will probably lay the blame for the situation in the country on the majority and the ministers, and until then, whatever coalition is created in parliament will be just another rat race.

Kocharyan has experience here. After the 1999 terrorist attack in the parliament, the Unity Bloc, which had constituted the majority, was divided through his efforts.

Often when we analyze internal politics in the country we fail to consider external factors. In this case, outside forces will be decisive. After the presidential election, the Armenian leadership found itself in the sights of European institutions and the United States. Since the parliamentary elections, their target has not changed. The president must have badly wanted the parliamentary elections to be free and fair, but he had no way to guarantee it. In February and March, he had permitted everybody to falsify the elections on his behalf, so in May he had to let them falsify the elections on their own behalf. Kocharyan’s real problem is that there is nobody honest left in Armenian politics. But the corruption of politicians over the last five years has been aided and abetted by Kocharyan himself and his team.

There have been many negative articles on the presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia published in the Western press. It has been duly noted that Robert Kocharyan has been unable to consolidate and develop democracy in Armenia, as democracy is incompatible with fraudulent elections.

President Kocharyan is weak and lonely. Even the ARF has turned its back on him, the dispirited Ramkavars are threatening him, the West is not giving him hope, and the people are indifferent. He cannot be as persistent and consistent as he was before the presidential election anymore. If in recent years he could insist on his points and not retreat during negotiations, he cannot do so now.

It seems as if Kocharyan’s circle has done everything it can to make him weak. A weak president means a weak country. But his circle doesn’t care about the country. They are only interested in money, which has to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled - this is the anguish and affliction of Kocharyan’s narrow-minded fraternity. The “new generation” in parliament is the last gift that Kocharyan’s brother-in-arms and good friend, Defense Minister Serge Sarkisyan, gave the president. A gift that brings with it new rules of a new game - unpredictable, incomprehensible and alarming.

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