6 March 2021

Saturday, 18:06



Internal political crisis in Armenia is exacerbating, or Will the lame duck leave his post?



Apparently, the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the former editor of the opposition newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak, is still able to make up effective phrases. In his address to the parliament, he pathetically exclaimed: “We will not cling to the seats. If the people demand that I should be shot or hanged, so be it, but it should be a popular demand, not of several individual groups."

That being said, the issue of what should be considered a popular opinion or a position of individual groups is arguable. Especially when the supporters are called people, and the opponents – individual groups. And one can only guess the support of the popular majority by indirect manifestations. But there is no doubt that both the world community and the peoples of the former USSR witness yet another series of dramatic events on the streets of Yerevan – crowds of protesters, emotional speeches, sparse police cordons trying to hold back the crowd...

Two and a half years ago, during the ‘barbecue revolution’, all these streets were painted in major and optimistic tones. But now the streets of Yerevan demand Pashinyan's resignation. A successor has also been determined. The opposition represented by 17 (!) political parties has nominated Vazgen Manukyan, the former Minister of Defense and Prime Minister of Armenia, to replace Pashinyan. Since the late ‘90s Manukyan has been in the shadows, but today he is giving interviews again, preparing himself for the big politics again.


Report from the lost war

But now the effective phrases of Nikol Vovaevich can hardly help him because he faces too serious charges. A lost war can end the career of even the most promising or successful politician. As noted many times before, Pashinyan began to aggravate the situation in Karabakh because he failed in all respects as a politician. But today they ask the prime minister also for his many past mistakes.

After the defeat in Karabakh, many local experienced politicians began disseminating revelations and delicate details about the political faults of Nikol Pashinyan. The former head of the Military Control Service of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia, Movses Hakobyan, accused Pashinyan of many sins after his own resignation. He said that Armenia purchased the Su-30 aircraft from Russia without missiles, Pashinyan appointed the most unprofessional general, Artak Davtyan, as the Chief of General Staff, the mobilization was announced very late and covered an insufficient number of reservists, and that the wife of Pashinyan, Anna Hakobyan, interfered in military affairs too much...

Former President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, also accuses Pashinyan. He believes the Armenian authorities did everything to bring the war closer: “First, the negotiation process was deliberately stalled. With our mutually exclusive statements, we have created a situation in which the co-chairs did not know what the Armenian side wanted. There was an impression that Armenia was doing everything to stall the negotiation process. And the war began at the time when no one doubted that the negotiations were thwarted by the Armenian side.” Kocharyan confirmed that the conflict in Tovuz in July 2020 was also provoked by Armenia. He also condemned the former Minister of Defense of Armenia David Tonoyan for his thesis “new war, new territories”.

Today Pashinyan is asked many unpleasant questions. He was not forgiven not only for the military defeat, but also for the shameless lies of the authorities about the events in the front during the war. He is reminded of the hopelessly spoiled relations with Russia, which did not fight with Azerbaijan (!) for the interests of Armenia.


Anatomy of protests in Yerevan

A fairly wide opposition front stands against Nikol Pashinyan. Among the 17 parties that signed a demand for Pashinyan's resignation, there are both serious and insignificant ones. The strongest bloc is certainly the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia. It is supported by Prosperous Armenia led by Gagik Tsarukyan, Motherland headed by the retired chief of the National Security Service of Armenia Artur Vanetsyan. Finally, among the signatories is the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun. In fact, the latter’s reflects the position of the Armenian Diaspora, at least of its politicized elite. It is possible, of course, to argue that there are enough contradictions between the signatories, that the whole body of opposition does not look very strong, etc., but this definitely does not make the life easier for Pashinyan.

Moreover, the current ruling team also lacks the support of external players. Pashinyan's relations with Russia did not go well from the very beginning. The Kremlin did not forgive him the arrest of the then CSTO Secretary General Yuri Khachaturov, even theoretically.

Contrary to the plans and hopes of the Soros’ boys from Yerevan, Pashinyan could not ensure any intelligible support in the West either. The dispatch of sappers trained as part of military cooperation with the US to Syria after Washington's demand to abandon cooperation with the Kremlin provoked an understandable reaction in the West. Armenia made attempts to build bridges with the US and its allies during the hostilities, to no avail. According to the majority of Yerevan experts, neither Moscow nor Washington trusts Pashinyan today, which means that they support other figures.

It seems that all this is quite enough for a new street revolution, or a military coup, in Yerevan, after which officials would hastily shoot portraits of Pashinyan. But…


Armenian lame duck, or Pashinyan can't leave

According to the classical interpretation, the US-born phrase ‘lame duck’ is a name given to a president continuing to hold the office during the period between the election and the inauguration of a successor. Bill Clinton has even made a humorous video where he washes his limousine, holds a briefing in an empty hall and prepares breakfast for his wife elected to the Senate...

In the post-Soviet space, the idiom often refers to the first persons of state, who are political bankrupts, but nevertheless continue to hold the power by all means. So, Bill Clinton, who was preparing to leave the White House after two terms, could afford to joke on himself but not the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

In fact, the opposition also behaves strangely. Pashinyan was initially issued an ultimatum to resign before noon on December 8 in order to avoid physical assault. But very soon, in the evening of the same day, the opposition leaders, especially the Dashnaks, called on their supporters to stop the protest actions. The opposition did not go further to make Pashinyan resign.

What is this? Does it mean the leaders of opposition are simply not strong enough? Was Pashinyan ready to shed blood in the streets of Yerevan? There are plenty of versions. But it is likely that currently the Armenian opposition simply is not ready to take the power and share the responsibility for the fate of the country. Revising the trilateral agreement signed on November 10, which actually meant Armenia's surrender, is not worth even thinking about. This means that it is better to forget about quick dividends from the issue of Garabagh. And the diplomatic efforts too.

Armenia is ahead of serious economic challenges. War is an expensive endeavour. In addition, Yerevan is now deprived of revenues from the plunder of the occupied Azerbaijani territories. At the same time, Azerbaijan is preparing to sue Armenia for the material damage. Experts assume that Azerbaijan is going to demand $50 billion from Armenia as compensation. So, Pashinyan is likely given a chance to play his role till the end role, while the real internal political reconstruction will begin later.

If the actors have enough patience, of course.