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ArmInfo’s interview with Manvel Sargsyan, Director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS)
by David Stepanyan
The latest developments in the domestic political field of Armenia are mainly connected with Vartan Oskanyan. What are the objective reasons and roots of “the Oskanyan case”?
Part of the Armenian public has certain claims against Vartan Oskanian. If such charges were brought against Paruyr Hayrikyan, the statements on the political order would be much sounder. In the case with Oskanian, people again hesitate.
Legal philosophy is insufficiently developed in Armenia and people blame Oskanian for the incidents of March 1 2008, though many people think that the key figures responsible for that tragedy are quite different people. That is, there are polar opinions on Oskanian. Some people say there is nothing above the law, while others say Oskanian is being persecuted. At the same time, both the parties think that the case is a political order, which is obvious given that some people that should have been locked up long ago are still in freedom. Nevertheless, the attitudes towards the political order are different.
Do you think that Oskanian has not lost his chances to run for president because of that political order?
I don’t think so, because the authorities cannot convict him before the elections from the procedural point of view. It will take time. Sometimes the people suffering political persecution gain even more popularity then they had before. Everything depends on the public attitude. Persecuted people get positive image in the eyes of certain public sections.
Who supports the potential candidate Oskanian?
I cannot understand how could a man speaking of reforms and public order become a member of a big oligarch's political party. The idea of an oligarch has become usual in Armenia, while in any legal country an oligarch is a state criminal. However, in his actions Oskanian appeals to Prosperous Armenia, considering it a weighty factor in the political field. Obviously, he strives for presidency with help of that political party especially that its genealogy is not far from Oskanian. In 2006 when PAP was formed Oskanian had already came out as an active figure that claimed presidency. Today, we see a return to the program that was left unfulfilled then.
Who and what will Prosperous Armenia run for president with, if Oskanian is neutralized anyway?
Since 2006 no qualitative changes have been observed at the Prosperous Armenia Party. Neither a new real master of the situation has emerged. So, this union-myth has remained a political bubble, which was used by the founders, and then by everyone. At certain moments, for instance during the part parliamentary elections, PAP suddenly began to position as an opposition party shadowing the entire opposition field. Afterwards, all the other parties, and first of all the oppositional ones, were totally marginalized. What has happened in the current year? Feeling its weakness, the opposition, specifically, the Armenian National Congress also decided to play with that soap bubble on the example of the authorities. This even more blew up the soap bubble. After the parliamentary elections the bubble was so blown up that I couldn't imagine how its leader feels him. It is evident that he stays in Armenia less then anywhere else. There is an impression that he runs away from reality. Creation of such soap bubbles often leads to a situation when everyone loses control of it. There was a similar situation in the post-war Armenia when militaries were politicized and a military oligarchy was created. However, that military oligarchy did not exist and was hanging on the name of one person only, Vazgen Sargsyan. After he was killed in 1999 all that machinery disappeared suddenly. The logic of such process maybe not realized, but everyone have already began to use that bubble without waging any real policy.
Do you think that President Serzh Sargsyan is the key player that has levers of influence on the “Prosperous bubble”?
Yes, of course. What are 'Oskanian case' and the ongoing talks on compromising materials against Tsarukyan? These are those very levers of influence a man in power can use. The opposition has no such levers, indeed. It has nothing to do but to influence with political levers.
Are the talks on discrepancies between the Republican and PAP part of a general game? What kind of discrepancies are these?
After the parliamentary elections in Armenia in May 2012, negotiations for coalition had been held for a couple of weeks. That is, there was certain game between the Republican Party and Prosperous Armenia, which proved fruitless, however. PAP did not join the coalition for its demand for the prime minister's position was rejected. Neither it joined the opposition. As a result, the players of the same team are currently playing in the political field of Armenia: the main team of the Republican Party and the reserve players of Prosperous Armenia Party. They also have power and demand participation in the main team. Their problem is that during such
game of the main and reserve players, other players bearing no relation to their team are emerging.
This process is expanding and some people travel to Moscow, meet with U.S. Ambassador etc. Considering that there are no classical elections in Armenia, everything depends the administrative machinery. In 2007 the authorities led by Robert Kocharyan with the support of the recently created soap bubble Prosperous Armenia Party lost the parliamentary elections of May 12 in favor of the Republicans. And for the first time in Armenia that political force gained a parliamentary majority. It happened not because of the voters' choice, it happened because the administrative machinery supported it. As a result Robert Kocharyan lost power, put off the tie and curtseyed to the new power. Therefore, playing such games today Serzh Sargsyan did not forget the past. He thinks of what situation he will have in the country on the voting day and the choice of the administrative machinery and the authorities. That is important, all the remaining is of secondary importance.
No one knows how the domestic political situation in Armenia may change by the day of the presidential election. Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of Prosperous Armenia Party, which allegedly decided to fight for the post of the president, has left the country running away from reporters digging for information. If Tsarukyan has had nothing to say for months, what can we forecast?"
Neither the external forces know…
It is another matter. If foreign players agree on a certain candidate for the president in Armenia, everything will be clear yet before the election. Foreign interests are formed depending on the situation in the country. If any party establishes stabile power, the foreign forces are always ready to support it. What was the reason of the state coup in Armenia in 2007? The Republicans had worked out the given scheme beforehand and made their foreign partners, and first of Russia, believe it. Everyone in Armenia who has big money automatically becomes part of a criminal-oligarchic system, because there is no other factor to protect private property besides political potential. No wealthy person in Armenia is an exception. Today the ruling Republican Party has not limited itself with the old tested schemes and suggested Prosperous Armenia a new form of cooperation. It was reflected in Gyumri, he thinks, when the Republicans removed their candidate Vartan Ghukasyan and gave a head start to PAP candidate Samvel Balasanyan. This means that Republicans offer PAP also fine forms of cooperation using real power levers.
Are the latest displays of discontent at Russia expressed by the Armenian premier are elements of an electoral show?
The problem of foreign political orientation of Armenia is invented. Many do not even realize that program, because it has never been an imperative in the country. Hence, we have such games around heavy choice of Armenia's orientation. In the meanwhile, the 'pro- Western' Serzh Sargsyan swears by Russia in almost all his statements, and 'pro-Russian' Gagik Tsarukyan enlists the U.S. Ambassador's support for Oskanian. Therefore, all the talks on the Armenian vector of orientation are myths. Everyone understands what the authorities rely on. Military exercises can become elements of a political bargain but never the statements that implementation of the program "Compatriots" in Armenia is inadmissible. In reality, everything is determined by the security system. All the other conceptions are threaded on it.
If you have no alternative to your security system, you will never make a single step contradicting it. In Russia they are well aware of that.
Russia is making the security system of Armenia having no alternative by selling weapons to Azerbaijan to keep Armenia obedient. The weaker is the Armenian army, the more obedient will be Armenia and more depended it will be on Russia. Moscow operates with imperial methods developed for centuries. At the same time, I think that Armenia is an important element of Russia's security system and Yerevan depends on Moscow as much as Moscow depends on Yerevan. Armenia still has an alternative choice, while Russia hasn't. The policy of choice creates the main trends in today's global politics. For instance, Israel surrounded by Arabs dictates certain conditions to its key ally - USA. So, Armenia is the only factor for Russia to stop Turkey's expansion into the South, because Georgia and Azerbaijan had obeyed Turkey long ago. For the West, Armenia and the Armenian Cause is one of the key measures to restrain Turkey.
Do the Armenian authorities at least try to use those factors?
Any authorities understand the advantages of their country. I think the key problem of our authorities is their unwillingness to assume any responsibility. Look at what happens in the Armenian Parliament when the issue of recognition of the NKR is raised. Both the authorities and the opposition evade that issue, because it implies high responsibility. Al this has led to a situation when Armenia permanently misses serious political chances. For instance, in 1993 Azerbaijan that had been defeated on the Karabakh front was pompously adopted to the CIS under Armenia's signature. Before that Azerbaijan did not recognize Karabakh, though Azerbaijan's fate was decided by Armenia then. Studying the year 1915 in details, one will be reluctant to admit that the tragedy of 1915 was connected with that unwillingness to assume responsibility. In the meanwhile, Azerbaijan always successfully uses any situation that has no alternative in Armenia and other countries.
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