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Sweet promises and bitter truth: Armenia's government and opposition tandem

As favorites of election campaign in Armenia – Tsarukyan bloc and ruling Republican Party of Armenia – spotlighting social and economic problems at their meetings with voters, Armenian National Bloc (ANC) – People’s Party of Armenia (PPA) opposition bloc lay the emphasis on Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Presenting their “complicated” election program, leaders of ANC-PPA said they want to tell the truth to the people. It has turned out that the truth is about Karabakh conflict and concessions Armenia should make to maintain peace and hope for better future. Head of ANC Parliamentary Faction Levon Zurabyan, who runs the second in their bloc’s List, says Armenia’s authorities have been presenting the Karabakh conflict as resolved for years, however, 18 years have passed and nothing has changed, and their stories burst like a bubble. “We want to tell the truth; Armenia must become a different state and must get out of economic blockade and conflicts. To that end, it is necessary to normalize the relations with Azerbaijan, settle the Karabakh conflict to provide security to both Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia as well as ensure the Karabakh people’s right to self-determination,” the opposition leaders tell voters.

In response to mixed public response, they insist that the “bitter truth” is not news, it was reflected in OSCE Minsk Group’s program based on the Madrid Principle the Armenian authorities accepted in 2007. “One should not make a tragedy of it, just try to achieve its implementation through diplomatic methods,” oppositionists say.

“The upcoming elections are, in fact, a choice between peace and war, adventurism and pragmatism. Public should make the authorities sober up, make mutual concessions and establish peace after a 24-year interval: we have been in the neither war-nor peace situation since 1994. If we manage to settle that issue, the country will start developing rapidly, see economic growth and people will stop leaving the country. If we fail to do this, no one will guarantee better prospects for us,” says Aram Manukyan, Spokesperson of ANC Parliamentary Faction.

In response to the negative outcry of voters, Manukyan says, “yes, we must respond with force to threat and Armenia’s armed forces do it. Armenia and Karabakh must improve their positions in all aspects.” However, he says, at a certain moment, the country will need to maintain and strengthen what was liberated at the expense of 6,000 lives and is defended against Azerbaijan by troops. “We must give an international status to Karabakh. The world suggests this to us, and this is in favor of the Armenian side,” he says amid angry murmur that runs through crowd.

The program of ANC-PPA bloc says Armenia should establish relations with its neighbors to ensure independence of Armenia and Karabakh and exercise the Karabakh’s right to self-determination. The bloc’s representatives in the face of first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, are sure that it will put an end to slaughter of soldiers in the conflict zone, arms race, and will reduce high costs of military budget.

Establishment of peace will help Armenia join big economic projects in the region and boost investments and, consequently, economic growth. Manukyan admits that their election program may affect the bloc’s rating since they do not say what the people would like to hear. Nevertheless, he says, their team acts consciously and feels responsibility for the country’ future.

Although ANC comes out as radical opposition, the analysis of the recent years’ events shows that statements and calls of its leaders are in harmony with anticipations and intentions of the Armenian authorities. After April 9 2016, when President Serzh Sargsyan met with Ter-Petrosyan at the behest of the latter to discuss the flare-up in Karabakh, ANC blamed him for making plots with the authorities. It was the first sign of certain solidarity between them. Afterwards, the “radical opposition” came out with a statement that it suspended domestic political fight not to “tie up” the authorities amid external threats.

Levon Ter-Petrosyan has repeatedly said earlier that there is no option to resolve the Karabakh conflict but stage-by-stage settlement and the proposal on mutual concessions and settlement on the negotiating table is the same as in 1997 – to cede certain territories in exchange for internationally recognized interim status for Nagorno Karabakh and postponing the issue of final status till better times. The election program of ANC-PPA bloc offers nothing new. Is the public ready to such outcome? The people got used to promises, but it had never appeared in such hard psychological situation when it is urged to vote for those who will lead the country to concessions. That is why ANC-PPA election meetings gather small number of voters.

Nevertheless, ANC and PPA do insist on their tactics, which, as polls show, will hardly bring them at least the required minimum of votes to enter the parliament. According to EADaily, Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s team has to do “the dirty task” instead of the authorities in exchange for guaranteed seats in the parliament. It is one thing when the hateful authorities speak of concessions (the Armenian president’s stance on mutual concessions with Azerbaijan is similar to that of Ter-Petrosyan), and quite another thing when “radical opposition” that has been promising to change power in the country does it. In such situation, the Republican Party of Armenia should just give social and economic promises, while its key “rival” lobbies the major issue of its program and the entire foreign policy of Armenia.

By Lia Khojoyan for EADaily

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