Marat Terterov: Armenia’s long term security will be better served by strengthening economic security, rather than defining national security on the basis of the Tsarist Russian catch-cry “armiya i flot”
by David Stepanyan
Judging from what is going on after Feb 18, the past presidential election may well become a kind of a storm bird heralding something the supporters of runner-off Raffi Hovannisian have already called “an apricot revolution.” Hovannisian has already urged the Central Electoral Commission to cancel the results of the voting in several dozens of electoral districts, but the CEC has already recognized the victory of Serzh Sargsyan, so, it is for Hovannisian to say the final say here...
The storm of indignation that covered Armenia’s second biggest city, Gyumri, following Sargsyan’s victory implies that the post-election period will hardly be peaceful.
Hovannisian must be perfectly aware of this: it took him just an hour to respond to the CEC’s final results with a declaration of commitment to continue his “revolution of greetings” all over Armenia. One more argument that “the apricot revolution” is possible is the number of protesters – from 7,000 to 15,000, according to different sources. Liberty Square has not seen so many people together since Mar 1 2008. And the regime has no guarantees that this number will not grow to a level that will enable Hovannisian to dictate terms to those inside the presidential residence. If supported by the ARFD and certain anti-governmental politicians, this force may become a decisive factor.
Judging from the official results, the Republicans have achieved their key goal – to avoid a run-off election without using “extra” votes and thereby to restore Sargsyan’s legitimacy in the eyes of the world community. As many as 632 observers from 12 international organizations have said that the violations registered during the voting were not significant and had no influence on the outcome. Sargsyan has received congratulations from lots of colleagues already. So, quite a lot of external forces, including Russia and the United States, appear to be willing to see Sargsyan as Armenia’s President in the next five years. The only unwilling are... the Armenian people and they have reasons for this. They in Heritage Party are sure that the violations registered during the voting were orchestrated from one center.
Those supporting the local oligarchs did their best to prevent the people from expressing their will. So, we can say that had the voting been fair, Raffi Hovannisian might have won the race or at least might have booked a place in the run-off. The crowd that is coming to Liberty Square to support Hovannisian is the best proof that the people are no longer willing to stand the regime’s tyranny.
So, there are three possible ways for the things to develop. The first scenario is called “Apricot Revolution”: Hovannisian inspires wide masses with his handshakes and messages and they will make a resolution.
In Armenia there has been no alternative to the regime since 1991. On Feb 18 it appeared. Quite helpful in the matter were the refusals of the Armenian National Congress, ARFD and Prosperous Armenia to run for presidency. And the “official” votes of 37% of the Armenian voters are the best proof of this.
Whether this scenario is possible or not depends mostly on Hovannisian’s firmness and integrity in seeking power.
The second scenario is imitative. Given Serzh Sargsyan’s firm commitment to implementation of any scenarios directed against the real political opponents, one could suppose that the RPA decided to use Hovannisian in order to distract the public attention from more serious political rivals for the authorities. A similar thing happened in Jan-Feb 2011, when Leader of the People’s Party Tigran Karapetyan unexpectedly gathered several thousands of people near Matenadaran, who demanded change of power. The “incorrupt” leader of the People’s Party managed to achieve the final fragmentation of the ANC electorate, as his “rallies” were held almost simultaneously with the rallies of Levon Ter-Petrosyan. However, considering the option of the authorities’ “appointing” Hovannisian as the opposition leader, one should not forget that he has no alternative at the moment. Neither Prosperous Armenia nor the ANC or the ARFD leads the opposition. Today it is Hovannisian that has obtained the protesting votes of the society. Therefore, it is rather hard to imagine the reasons why the incumbent president might blow up the bubble called “Raffi”.
Given the flexibility of chess player Sargsyan and the extreme inconsistency of diplomat Hovannisian, one should not ignore provision of high posts to the latter or to the representatives of his team, though the President’s motivation also causes questions. In particular, it is not clear why the authorities needed to artificially nurture Hovannisian to buy him off later.
The third possible scenario is also imitative. Actually, the authorities might use the protest movement led by Hovannisian in order to imitate the prospects for an “orange” revolution in Armenia in the Kremlin’s eyes. Californian Hovannisian as president of Armenia would have become a real nightmare for Moscow, given that this would have inevitably led to the loss of the country considered by the Kremlin as the last outpost beyond the Caucasian Mountain Range. Therefore, Serzh Sargsyan is an example of loyalty for the Kremlin, especially as compared with Raffi Hovannisian.
In this context, the Western observers’ unanimous recognition of the election results causes bewilderment. For Europe and the USA, pro-Western Raffi Hovannisian would have looked much more attractive than “homo sovieticus” Serzh Sargsyan. However, to all appearances, the numerous meetings of the Heritage leader with the diplomats accredited in Armenia failed to inspire him such confidence. In the meantime, it is early to rule out the use of the Heritage leader for implementation of certain Western projects. Thus, only time will help estimate the real chances of the arrival of an apricot-colored storm bird to Armenia and to analyze its possible, even negative consequences.