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Armenian president faces tough choice between political suicide and concrete concessions

31 March 2010 [08:38] - TODAY.AZ
"Political language is necessary to make a lie sound true, to make killing look respectable and to grab the air with one’s own hands.” This aphorism by English writer and essayist George Orwell has apparently become very relevant in the Armenian political beau monde. The fact that talks about Armenian ex-President Robert Kocharian’s political comeback top media reports is case and point.

Inexhaustible theme

Armenia's socioeconomic situation is simply catastrophic with a tendency to deteriorate further.

The decline of the Armenian economy was over 30 percent at the dollar calculation this year. Naturally, all this will lead to a further rise in prices on all types of goods, a devaluation of the dram and a dramatic reduction in the already low purchasing power of the Armenian population.

Practices related to democracy, freedom of speech and thought are far from the minimum requirements. The oligopoly continues to hold all the power in the country, which thwarts the attempts of dissents and threatens its own rule.

And, finally, Armenia's foreign policy has suffered a crash. And the most striking proof of this is what the country has achieved from the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations.

Armenia gained a clear expression of  Turkey's position, which reiterated that it is impossible to  normalize ties with Armenia without Armenia’s withdrawal from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan, emphasized the need for an early settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, demonstrated Azerbaijan's increased credibility and influence in the region and the world, showed the distrust toward Armenia as a negotiator and, finally, questioned the fate of tens of thousands of illegal Armenians working in Turkey with the further threat of closing air communications between the two countries.

Further attempts to hide the truth about the Armenian economy are equal to trying to grab the air with one’s own hands. So, there is nothing surprising about the renewed talks about Kocharian’s return to politics. What is the reason behind mainstreaming this idea? There are several possible scenarios.

Real threat or another farce?

The first scenario is that being aware of all the possible consequences of the further deterioration of the socioeconomic and political situation in Armenia, Yerevan is ready to make major concessions in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in an interview with CNN said there has been rapid progress in the process of solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It should also be noted that in an interview with German Die Zeit, Prime Minister Erdogan also said: "Turkey will not open its border with Armenia until Armenia leaves Azerbaijan’s territories."

In other words, it seems that Armenia would have to make steps, very disadvantageous from the viewpoint of the Armenian nationalists, in the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Under these conditions it is quite timely from the viewpoint of the Armenian nationalists to bring Kocharian’s comeback into the mainstream. By the way, the former president has already criticized the current Armenian authorities.

Thus, it seems that Kocharian is being presented to Armenia and the international community as a club, which could hit President Serzh Sargsyan over the head when he begins to take concrete steps to resolve the Armenian -Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Worthy of note is that the leader of the Prosperous Armenia party and oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan and ex-Foreign Minister, Sivilitas Foundation Chairman Vartan Oskanian made similar statements almost simultaneously with Kocharyan, who condemned the current economic policy of the Armenian authorities.

These statements voiced by people close to Kocharian discredited Sargsyan, who is responsible for the poor economic situation in the country and his failing foreign policy. Recently, Armenian media reported that Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian wrote a resignation letter and sent it to the president’s residence.
For his close aides he motivated his resignation by Sargsyan’s compliant policy on the Karabakh issue. After receiving the minister’s resignation, Sargsyan summoned Ohanian and had an almost six-hour conversation with him. Then Ohanian withdrew his resignation and returned to work.
All this shows that the current Armenian president is actually being forced to make major concessions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Ohanian is ready to support the forces opposed to the Armenian president once this happens. And this is very serious. Given Tsarukian's and Ohanian’s opportunities, there are strong reasons to predict even more pressure on Sargsyan due to the speculation about Kocharian's return to power. Moreover, the history of the Sargsyan-Kocharian standoff has lasted more than a year.

In particular, Sargsyan defeated Kocharian once in the last parliamentary elections. Back then, Prosperous Armenia, hastily set up by Kocharian, was crushed and had no option but to become a younger and less meaningful partner for the dominating Republicans. Later, the bloody March events ensued and became a symbol of Sargsyan's presidency. The whole world saw the scale of the fraud and bloody suppression of dissent in Armenia. It was Kocharian’s response to the current president who cannot escape the stigma of a dictator and a politician who came to power by spilling the blood of his own people.

Will there be a new bloodshed in Armenia? Kocharian has repeatedly showed that he can resort to the bloodletting of his own people for the sake of quenching his own political ambitions. So, it all depends on what Sargsyan’s next actions will be.

Bloodshed in Armenia is not beneficial for Azerbaijan at all since any destabilization of the situation in the country is fraught curtailing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict negotiation process, in which the current Armenian president appears to be ready to make concrete concessions.

Precisely because of this, there is reason to consider a second version of the events on Kocharian’s return to power. Maybe the bitter rivals Sargsyan and Kocharyan are staging this farce in a bid to break down the talks to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

That Sargsyan has run out of formal arguments to delay Armenia’s response to the updated Madrid principles corroborates this assertion. At this point, there is the threat of Kocharian’s return to power, followed by the destabilization of the political situation in Armenia and his rejection of the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish dialogue and any real steps to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Of course, Kocharian has every opportunity to personally voice dissatisfaction with the actions of the current government to Sargsyan himself and other members of the government, but not through the media. So, it is possible that this is a game for the foreign audience for the most part.

Sargsyan is not interested and strongly opposes Kocharian's return to power in any form including as prime minister because he understands that his consent for a Kocharian comeback would be tantamount to political suicide.

The specifics of the situation in Armenia show that the lives of ordinary citizens will not improve regardless of whether Kocharian returns to politics. They will continue to live in the country, struggle for survival and be consumable in the hands of their own rulers, regardless of the name and surname of their leader. These rulers have long established the basic rule of life in the country. This rule is consonant with another Orwellian maxim, according to which all animals are equal but some animals are a bit more equal than others.

A. Hasanov
Day.Az writer

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