BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Since his re-appointment for a second term, Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan has been—rightfully—on the receiving end of criticism from various political factions and individuals, among them the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The main criticism of Sargsyan has been his handling of Armenia’s economic and financial policies that has brought wide-spread poverty and unemployment to Armenia hastening rampant emigration from the country.
However, instead of analyzing and delineating his many shortcomings in advancing Armenia’s economic policy, the focus of Sargsyan’s misdeeds has become his alleged involvement in an “off shore” investment scheme. Such a scandal is certainly more palatable for the lay citizen and of course more intriguing with its salacious details that include the involvement of the Primate of the Ararat Diocese Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan as a partner in the “off shore” company.
On Wednesday, ARF Bureau Chairman Hrant Markarian chose RFE/RL (azatutyun.am) to announce that because of the ARF’s criticism and opposition to his approach, the prime minister has declared “war” on the ARF. Markarian said that by using media outlets under his control the prime minster was spreading false claims of an alleged revolt within the party that seeks to oust Markarian from the Bureau.
If Armenia were governed by a parliamentary system, the numerous calls for the prime minister’s resignation would have been legitimate (see recent developments in the Czech Republic). However, Armenia IS governed by a presidential system which means the buck stops with the president and no one else. Hence, if the prime minister has declared war on an opposition faction so has the president.
What is more alarming is the revelation by Markarian that various people in Armenia’s government control their OWN media outlets, through which they advance their personal agendas.
Armenia’s political landscape has denigrated to a point that not only a handful of oligarchs control most of the country’s national wealth, but government officials entrusted to protect the citizens and the Constitution—which calls for a free press among other tenets—have created fiefdoms of sorts by controlling (buying and paying for) the media.
Markarian’s assertion that the prime minister’s use of press outlets under his dominion will only hurt Sargsyan is accurate in that the ARF, in its 123 years of existence, has always addressed its organizational issues and always has resolved them internally and without outside intervention. Sargsyan’s “war” on the ARF will not impede or deter ARF members from having a healthy discourse about the party’s activities, direction or leadership nor will it serve as a rallying cry to abandon any such discussion. A quick glance at its history will reveal that the ARF has conducted its internal business according to the organization’s needs—and by-laws—at times of even greater threats to the party and to the nation.
The last 22 years have shown that Armenia’s government is controlled by the ruling party locally, regionally and nationally. The ARF has sounded that alarm, most recently during the three important elections, that the ruling party candidates are using government levers to win elections and impeding serious competition while stealing the elections.
After the flawed presidential elections in February, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia convened a conclave and hailed its chief, Serzh Sarkisian, as the ruler of the party and the people of Armenia. Sarkisian, in turn, appointed the same apparatchiks, including the prime minister, to advance his policies not their own.
We have also seen that no government official can make a move without the approval of 26 Baghramyan Street (the presidential residence). The recent issues with the increase in gas and utility prices, which is forcing Armenia to sell off its critical infrastructure to Russia is nothing but a product of Serzh Sarkisian’s failed policies.
The President does not have carte blanche to continue his corrupt agenda that has marred Armenia’s ability to advance and grow economically, socially and politically. It was the president’s edict that embroiled Armenia in the dangerous Armenia-Turkey protocols, which continue to hang like the Sword of Damocles over Armenia.
Markarian’s revelations only heighten the imperative to identify the real culprit in Armenia woes—President Serzh Sarkisian. Only then can the public emerge from the distracting haze of scandal and innuendo and, as Markarian, himself, said, change the president in Armenia.