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Monday, 17 March 2008

Armenia: Moving Forward?


On 5 March Armenia’s first president and leader of opposition movement Levon Ter-Petrosyan - who is effectively under ‘house arrest’ now - wrote an opinion piece for Washington Post - "Silence on Armenia".

Today it was a turn for prime-minister (‘president-elect’) Serj Sargsyan and his newly formed coalition partner, a former speaker of Armenian parliament, head of Orinats Yerkir party, and finally, the most famous fake oppositionist in Armenia Arthur Baghdasaryan. I provide a copy of their opinion piece (in full) titled “Moving Forward in Armenia” below. But before, some of my initial thoughts after reading it, directed to the authors.

You mention that “We have until Thursday, when the state of emergency is lifted, to find political solutions and ensure that Armenia does not slide back into chaos.” Honestly, I can’t see that government is engaged in finding a political solution. You can’t find a political solution by prosecuting your opponents for political reasons, shutting down independent and pro-opposition media, restricting civil liberties.

Yes, cooperation is a way forward, but not only with your own protégés (read Arthur Baghdasaryan & co). “The political alliance we have created, between the president-elect and the Rule of Law Party, is an effort to do things democratically and through compromise. Between us, we represent 70 percent of the votes of the Armenian people.” First, you do not represent 70% of votes, no sensible person trusts in fairness of presidential election. Of course, neither Ter-Petrosyan represents 65% of votes, as he claimed. On the other hand, votes given for Arthur Baghdasaryan were from people who voted for opposition to current government, and not for its protégé. Therefore, Arthur Baghdasaryan no longer represents people who voted for him, at least substantial proportion of them.

Consequently, this new, as you put it, “grand coalition” WILL NOT “guarantee that the people's will is reflected.”

You are making good points on “political dialogue”, that “Only a government with wide popular support, not one created through street violence, can successfully resolve these problems” - who would argue? But these are just words, without any actions which would substantiate your claims. People are tired of empty words. They do not trust words. It is a different society you are dealing with now. Sooner you understand it, the better it will be for Armenia.

What you need to do now is to read today’s declaration of Heritage party which provides clues for Armenia to move forward, for real.

*source of photo: Photolur, via A1+

Moving Forward In Armenia
By Serzh Sargsyan and Arthur Baghdasaryan
Monday, March 17, 2008
Washington Post

Armenia's reputation as a stable, democratic country in a troubled region has taken a battering recently. Although international observers gave an overall positive rating to the conduct of last month's presidential election, opposition forces took to the streets, seeking to overturn the people's will. Riots and armed demonstrations left more than 100 injured. Tragically, seven protesters and one police officer died.

Public faith in our economy and political institutions has been undermined. Simply put, we had a competitive election. Dragging this crisis on, literally through the streets, only hurts Armenia. For almost a decade -- since then-President Levon Ter-Petrosyan resigned -- our country has avoided civil uproars and armed violence, allowing for a period of internationally recognized democratic and socioeconomic progress.

But after he lost his bid to reclaim the presidency in February, Ter-Petrosyan resorted to a dangerous and profoundly undemocratic form of populism. He radicalized a part of the opposition and guided it into a standoff with the state, which led to the March 1 riots in which armed demonstrators confronted police. It was clear to all moderate political forces -- pro-government or supporters of the opposition -- that declaring a state of emergency was the only possible option to protect our citizens. We have until Thursday, when the state of emergency is lifted, to find political solutions and ensure that Armenia does not slide back into chaos.

The two of us were competitors in the presidential election. But we are united in our desire to end the current crisis and put Armenia back on track. Cooperation is the way forward.

The political alliance we have created, between the president-elect and the Rule of Law Party, is an effort to do things democratically and through compromise. Between us, we represent 70 percent of the votes of the Armenian people. This is a serious and solid mandate. On this basis, we will pursue ambitious but realistic reforms that will strengthen our democracy and our nation's socioeconomic progress. In this moment of crisis, we have agreed to assume responsibility for joint governance.

This form of government has not been imposed upon Armenia; we have chosen it as the best way forward. This new, grand coalition will guarantee that the people's will is reflected.

We insist, however, that continued progress is possible only through dialogue and reform. Violence has no place in democracy. Therefore, we ask those who are still promoting instability on the streets to join us in political dialogue and to help us guide our country toward prosperity.

Armenia faces a series of external challenges that we hope to address. First among them is the long-standing conflict over who should control the Nagorno-Karabakh region between our country and Azerbaijan; second is the normalization of relations with Turkey. Only a government with wide popular support, not one created through street violence, can successfully resolve these problems. We will also continue to ask the international community to recognize the Armenian genocide, though this issue should not prevent us from moving forward.

We do not assume that all of our country's ills will be solved through a coalition government. And we will certainly address the expectations of the several thousands of voters who are dissatisfied; we must do so to build consensus. But we must also recognize the expectations of the many more thousands of voters who chose the government that is in power. We will do our utmost to restore public trust in the electoral process and to unite the nation again.

Our priority is to run a transparent government and have a clear agenda, which we will announce. We will fight corruption head-on. We are confident that with the world's help, reason and responsibility will regain the upper hand in Armenia. We have no time to waste -- there is a lot of work to do. Despite recent events, our country is still moving forward. The international community has everything to gain through supporting a stable, transparent and elected government in Armenia.

10 comments:

Myrthe said...

"For almost a decade [...] our country has avoided civil uproars and armed violence[...]."

Yeah, right. I vaguely seem to remember that something happened in.. now help me remember - when was it again? 2004, I think... Correct me if I'm wrong, gentlemen.

nazarian said...

I like your comments on the article. I would suggest putting them in a letter to the editor.

Can be emailed at: letters@washpost.com

or online feedback at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/contactus/index.html?nav=globebot

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/
wp-srv/contactus/index.html?nav=
globebot)

Anonymous said...

lol

Laurel and Hardy at the Washington Post

Anonymous said...

Your Comments On...

Moving Forward In Armenia
Why the international community should support our coalition government.
- By Serzh Sargsyan and Arthur Baghdasaryan

Commentsnkanayan wrote:
Concerning armed demonstrators - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHhKq-0zKXg.
3/17/2008 12:13:47 PM
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ferrari360 wrote:
To the editors of WP: How can you post an article of people who are responsible for this? What's next, an aticle by Bin laden?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHhKq-0zKXg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVrkH-NZs_M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CgjhwXzHKQ

3/17/2008 11:51:52 AM
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strugglefortruth wrote:
The current regime in Armenia headed by kocharyan (the outgoing president) and sargsyan relies heavily on military power, but its main "weapons" are the manipulation of law and the public opinion inside the country through misrepresentation of facts and events. Their rule is falsehood and lies totally and wholly. They lie in representing Armenia as "moving to democracy" while in reality they have driven the country to dictatorship. In today's Armenia there is no independent judiciary system, the parliament has become a mere approver/ratifier of decisions and of laws presented by the president and the government. In Armenia there practically is no free and independent media,except a handful of newspapers with limited coverage. And these "great" politicians have now turned to manipulate the opinion of the international community and of international organizations, too. I regret that WP has become a means for this purpose in the hands of these people. Meanwhile, the people of Armenia call for the support of international community in their struggle for truth and independence. Armenia poses a situation to international organizations and societies in the West, where they have to choose: support the true democratic movement in Armenia or hide behind the curtains of "beautiful and reassuring," but empty words of kocharyan, sargsyan and others at the power. The deeds of these people talk for themselves.
3/17/2008 11:40:36 AM
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hamazzara wrote:
outrageous lie

3/17/2008 11:34:55 AM
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svs1 wrote:
A hypocritical article.
First release all political prisoners and stop the persecution of the opposition, if you really want to have dialogue with it. Otherwise, you are deceiving the readers here.
3/17/2008 11:19:12 AM
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kali1 wrote:
Mr. Sargsyan and Mr. Baghdasaryan are counting on the ignorance of the American populace to swallow the pablum in this article. Therefore, we need a recap. Mr. Baghdasaryan, who has shown and continues to show the leadership of a weathervane, ran a vigorous campaign on an Obama-like theme of change. In now pairing up with Sargsyan, it would be as if Obama suddenly decided that he could be the running mate of—Dick Cheney. Would Obama’s supporters agree that their votes “represented” support for Dick Cheney? Furthermore, merely a few days earlier, Baghdasaryan accused Mr. Sargsyan of plotting to kill him!
http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/02/F9815613-AA4E-4F29-BF2D-E1058B92BADD.ASP Either Mr. Baghdasaryan was lying then, or there is a gun to his head now, but either way, it is clear that what he has to say counts for nothing.
As for the “positive” assessments of the OSCE, they are certainly not referring to the interim report http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2008/03/30090_en.pdf , nor will you ever hear them mention the blistering final report that is now in preparation. In other bizarre news, the Prosecutor General is considering a trial of Mr. Ter-Petrossian on charges of “mass hypnosis” (you can’t make this stuff up!) http://www.armenialiberty.org/homepages/en/2008/03/20080307.asp
And what of the parliament and the media? The parliament (elected last year in another rigged ballot) is composed overwhelmingly of Mr. Sargsyan supporters. The few members of parliament who supported the opposition are now being held as political prisoners, along with hundreds of others of Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s supporters. The media has been completely silenced except for propaganda; although Mr. Sargsyan’s party announced that they were lifting the ban, it was simply a lie designed to fool the West. http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2008/03/6E171195-8E95-4C85-9789-D5214FD22533.html As for “fighting corruption head-on,” Mr. Sargsyan has been prime minister for the last ten years, during which time the corruption has grown over Armenia like kudzu. Meanwhile, neither he nor the current president Mr. Kocharian have been able to articulate to the world their position on Nagorno-Karabakh, a historic part of Armenia that was sadistically “given” to Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin to score some points with Turkey. And with the world turning against the sad spectacle that is now Armenia, the chance to restore Karabakh to Armenia is in danger of being lost forever.
With its court intrigues, assassination plots, shooting of demonstrators http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e6XR8TXGWA , imprisoning of oppositionists, ban on free media, rigging of elections, setting up of fiefdoms, and selling off nearly all of Armenia’s assets to Russia at discount prices, life in Armenia more nearly resembles Tudor England than an aspirant to the European Union. Now that the Washington Post has given both Mr. Ter-Petrossian and Mr. Sargsyan their say, perhaps it can be bothered to do some reporting and investigation of its own, so the truth can come to light?

3/17/2008 11:17:28 AM
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Lus1 wrote:
It’s amazing to see how Serzh Sargsyan and Arthur Baghdasaryan now are using international media as dissemination mean for their lies and falsehood. After completely owning the local media now they are targeting the international and US media??
What is the purpose of publishing this essay by Washingtonpost? To foster the violations of Armenian government? To empower the false government? To nurture fake democracy in Armenia? Journalism should be about freedom of speech and objectively interpreting the reality. Washingtonpost should stand by all those journalists in Armenia who were beaten and abused by government officials while doing their job rather than publishing fairy-tail story of Serzh Sargsyan and Arthur Baghdasaryan.

3/17/2008 10:28:49 AM
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haymart wrote:
I deeply regret that The Washington Post has published this fully false article of these two murderers. Serzh Sargsyan has made my country a catastrophic place where there is no place for democracy and human rights. Actually Serzh is the terrorist No 1 of Armenia and his terror is against the people of his own country. There are very many proofs and facts of the horrible actions taken on March 1 in Yerevan and Serz is the person who ordered to shoot and kill the people of his own nation. To show just one of the numereous videos I refer to http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ce7-AjX89nI . Nothing more to say. No words can express what has done Serz Sarkisyan with Armenia.
3/17/2008 10:18:29 AM
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tigran wrote:
This article represents how hypocritical the current Armenian government is. The ones who know the reality in Armenia also know that nothing stated in the article is based on facts and I regret that Washington Post has published this lie. The intent of Serzh Sargsyan and his all time supporter and fake opposition Arthur Bagdasaryan is to use the authority of highly respected newspaper to make their false claims more trustworthy. While they declare their “commitment” for democracy free media is banned in Armenia, all Internet web-sites that represent alternative opinion are blocked, more than 100 opposition leaders and ordinary citizens are in jails merely for participating in peaceful demonstrations, people are banned to assemble and to express views that are different from the government’s position.
It is outrageous when Mr. Sargsyan and Mr. Baghdasaryan refer to international recognition of election results because they continue to misrepresent what the international experts and heads of organizations said. Both European and American officials condemned the excessive and violent use of force by army and police and called for immediate lifting of the State of Emergency imposed by the incumbent who supports Serzh Sargsyan. The only purpose of the SE is to suppress the people’s will and democratic rights. But when their actions were criticized by European and American officials with clearly articulated warning by Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Danilovich from the “Millennium Challenges” Corporation to use sanctions against Armenia and to suspend or withdraw $230 million support program for Armenia those two “leaders” decided to fix their image. But instead of making changes in their internal policy they decided continue their practice of making speeches and doing nothing that improves the situation. Till today arrests occur in whole territory of Armenia, free media is banned, demonstrations are not allowed and the streets of the capital city are patrolled by the army.
I hope that the readers will not be fooled by this article and the international community will help Armenian people to restore the democracy in our country.

3/17/2008 9:53:46 AM
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Ramik wrote:
It was just a matter of time before the ruling regime in Armenia atempted, through propagandalike this in the international media, to put a favorable spin on political events in Armenia. The fact remains that tens of thousands of citizens rallied around Levon Ter-Petrosyan symbolically to vent their frustration and disillusionment with politics "as usual" in Armenia. It appears that the ruling Republican Party regime, which has governed this country as its private fiefdom has caught off guard by this groundswell of public protest. For Sargsyan and his lackey Baghdasaryan to claim that ordinary citizens were manipulated and mislead just proves that their pleas for calm and dialogue are hollow niceties. It is they who are responsible for these deaths and injuries since they never seriously viewed the people as partners in their government. They do not enjoy a solid mandate neither. A vast segment of the people distrust the government more than ever. It is the regime that created the divide between the rulers and the ruled; a divide that deepened by their mishandling of the post-election developments. They call for cooperation and dialogue but continue to restrict the media's coverage of these events and persecute those who merely showed up at the rallies. Sadly, their promises to "run a transparent govt and fight corruption" are difficult to accept given that Sargsyan "won" the election through the power, intimidation and fraud organized and implemented by his own party. Today it is Ter-Petrosyan, despite his many shortcomings, that has rallied the opposition. All restrictions on political dissent must be lifted in Armenia!!! The international community has everyting to gain to insure that democracy and transparency become more than just empty promises made by a regime that needs outside financial assistance and support.
3/17/2008 4:08:32 AM
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mbrown2 wrote:
Serzh Sargsyan did not “win” the election. He stole the election through a relentless campaign of violence, intimidation, misuse of administrative resources, and outright fraud. He had to cancel his planned victory rally in Freedom Square because no one came. In contrast, people came out to opposition rallies in the tens of thousands, of their own free will, to stand up for the votes they had cast. The government’s brutal crackdown in response has been well documented. It is disingenuous, to say the least, to call for dialogue when armed soldiers roam the streets, free media is completely shut down, and the vast majority of the opposition leaders are in jail.


3/17/2008 12:23:15 AM
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Anonymous said...

I have a feeling these TWO - Sarkissian and Baghdassarian and the other ones UP there on the Armenian governing Olymp take us for idiots. Or maybe it's a bad joke? Or maybe I'm in a dream? Too long and bloody dream, indeed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the things said above,just one more (not so) minor thing:
did you notice they have completely repeated the Azeri stance on Karbakh conflict:
"the conflict for the control of Nagorno-Karabakh region between our country and Azerbaijan".
For decades Armenians have been trying to explain to everyone that this is not a territorial conflict between ARm and AZ, but an issue of self-determination for the people of Karabakh.
And these two idiots, or rather the dumbfuck who wrote this for them, just come and basically say "yeah, the whole thing is about territory, we just wanna control that region"
And after that they accuse Levon
of "conspiring with outside forces"

artmika said...

Thanks for pointing this out (re Karabakh issue). Very important, indeed.

Anonymous said...

also, they forced levon out for striking a conciliatory cord with azeris and turks, and now they are basically saying the same thing. every sentence is just full of hypocrisy.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Myrthe, I don't agree with comparing 2004 with 2007. Back then the military and live ammunition was not used. It was the dispersal of a few thousand people who were blocking a main road for a matter of hours. This time was much different although I would suggest that in democratic countries clashes between police and protesters happen. However, in democratic countries where the police is trained and able to control crowds, the military is not brought in. Besides, a state of emergency was not called in 2004 either and the number of protesters smaller -- maximum 15,000 at their height back then. Definitely, it was not "civil uproar" or "armed violence" four years ago although the response was heavy-handed.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Anonymous, what people say and what they actually mean can be something entirely different. Besides, Ter-Petrossian's argument was that Sargsyan would not be able to broker a compromise deal and Kocharian was just pretending to play along with negotiators.

In fact, both sides can't keep their messages straight and as it's all politics, both are hypocritical and manipulative. Anyway, there's no doubt in my mind that the only genuine political figure interested in resolving the Karabakh conflict is Ter-Petrossian.

His track record speaks for itself, and his arguments (in my opinion) sound. Indeed, as I don't think that much would change otherwise, it was only in the area of foreign policy where he showed some (what I would call) progressive ideas.