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”
ArmInfo’s Interview with Director of the Center for National and International Studies Manvel Sargsyan
by David Stepanyan
How would you assess the Feb 18 presidential election?
No free elections are possible in Armenia as long as its government consists of oligarchs. This time everything happened the same way, and the only difference was that most parties had initially assessed the situation correctly. And the parties, which took part in the May 2012 parliamentary election and criticized all those saying it was senseless to participate in the election as election results had already been predetermined by the authorities, came to the same conclusion themselves before the presidential election. Thus, over the past 15 years the results of all elections in Armenia have been disputed, and during the Feb 2013 presidential election the parties, politicians and candidates disputed the legitimacy of the election itself. Such elections cannot be considered legitimate.
If Serzh Sargsyan had won the election legally, could he have "dethroned" at least the most odious oligarchs?
I do not think so. This scenario is not applicable to either our government system in general or Serzh Sargsyan personally. In such elections voters have no say. It is the regime who decides how many votes it needs to go on.
How effective is Raffi Hovannisian’s protest policy in the soft power spirit and what results may the visits to the regions, non-recognition of the election results and rallies give?
There are new elements in Raffi Hovannisian's approaches to the post-election situation if compared with the situation of 2008. First, the kind and soft tone of the protest movement differs from the black-white tones of similar movements of the previous years. Today the tone of the talk with the power is absolutely different and the "revolution of shaking hands" in some way reflects the atmosphere of this tone. Moreover, the new wave of protest has in fact refuted the party top, which has also become nonsense in our political reality. Today one man is standing on the top and demands hauling down all the party colours, in such a way giving a grounding for only the civilian approach to the situation. I don’t know how long such an approach will work, as the traditional approaches have already started ruining it.
Under what scenario do you think the change of power is possible?
Any protest movement has a leader who protests against something and gathers people around himself. Today it is not clear how Raffi Hovannisian is going to give power back to the people. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia must be removed from power from below. We must create lots of interim committees, which will form an alternative to the regime as was the case in 1988. Such committees begin to gradually push the regime out of power. For example, all people living in a town can gather and dismiss their mayor. If this is done on a general basis, the regime finally finds itself hanging in the air, with the police and the army having taken the people's side.
Analyzing the statements and the logic of Raffi Hovannisian’s actions, one can come to the conclusion that he is going to apply that strategy…
This is why I state that there is no other alternative. If this scenario is already going on, one should expect the abovementioned developments. Levon Ter-Petrosyan preferred starting with his own party because his goal was to take power. Hovannisian's goal is first to dethrone the anti-constitutional regime and then to conduct free elections. What happened in Georgia and Ukraine were semi-coups with protesting people involved, while the events in Poland, Chile, Serbia and SAR were classic examples of nationwide movements. I see no alternative for us.
Is there a possibility that Raffi Hovannisian will make an arrangement with the power?
I do not think it is possible. What may Raffi Hovannisian arrange with the power about? Our power will never make an arrangement with him. The power has already refused all his proposals.
May the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) once again become the Trojan horse put by the authorities under the movement headed by Raffi Hovannisian?
Certainly, it may. The vacuum was created at the latest presidential election just with the help and thanks to this party, which has already played the part of the Trojan horse. Of course, this is quite possible today as well.
Almost all the congratulatory messages of the leaders of the USA, the UK and France to Serzh Sargsyan contain a call for a change in the status quo in Karabakh and progress in the Armenian-Turkish normalization process. Sargsyan has already played his role by initiating an unsuccessful process with Turkey. What else do they expect from him?
The call for a change in the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh and progress in Armenian-Turkish relations contained in the congratulatory messages addressed by the presidents of the US, the UK and France to Serzh Sargsyan has only one implication - these countries will continue their relations with Armenia. If tomorrow Serzh Sargsyan is removed, they will send similar messages to the new president. The opinion that Serzh Sargsyan is pro-Russian while Raffi Hovannisian is pro-American is just a fiction. Almost all great powers have interests in Armenia, and those interests are not always antagonistic.
Raffi Hovannisian has promised that Armenia will recognize Nagorno-Karabakh's independence, but the incumbent authorities evade it. Doesn’t it demonstrate the sympathies of the West or Russia in the authorities’ favor?
We don't know what the US and Russia think about this. Russia keeps hinting that it is high time for Armenia to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh but the Armenian authorities are taking time in hope that they will outlive the conflict as their predecessors did.
What serious changes can one expect from Armenia’s recognition of the NKR?
Once recognized by Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh will get quite a different role in international relations. The OSCE will have no more say on it, and it will no longer be part of the Helsinki Act. The reluctance to change something is an unserious approach. The direct evidence of it is Northern Cyprus and its recognition by Turkey, due to which Cyprus is no longer part of the Helsinki Act.