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“Fight” for Armenia’s quitting EAEU as a sign of split in opposition

Photo: rferl.org

Parliamentary opposition in Armenia is preparing to initiate the country’s withdrawal from the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) at the upcoming autumn session. “Yelq” opposition bloc that called Armenia’s EAEU membership a political mistake yet during the spring election campaign plans to put the issue on parliamentary agenda in September. Mane Tandilyan, MP representing Yelq bloc, calls it a priority issue.

Although Yelq plans to launch the withdrawal process after the season of summer leaves, things are not that easy inside the political bloc.

It is one thing when an idea is being promoted being supported by all members of the party; another matter when the party is split by conflicts. The intrigue is increasing while one of the bloc leaders, Nikol Pashinyan, refrains from sounding his stance on Armenia’s withdrawal from the EAEU.

After the April war in Karabakh in 2016, MP Khachatur Kokobelyan submitted a bill on Armenia’s withdrawal from EAEU to the parliament. In the parliament of previous convocation, Pashinyan was an independent oppositionist, since he had discrepancies with the party that led it to the parliament. As for Edmon Marukyan, he was reportedly a Western-backed independent MP.

In that period, both the parliamentarians created their own political parties and were known to be outspoken critics of the government and of each other. Pashinyan used to say he could not cooperate with a “pro-European, pro-American” political party due to fundamental discrepancies. Pashinyan did not support Marukyan’s project of quitting EAEU, though he had been against Armenia’s alignment with EAEU from the very beginning. He explained his stance with Azerbaijan’s factor i.e. Baku will not join EAEU as long as Armenia is a member of it.

Despite all these processes, a few months later, the outspoken critics of each other united in Yelq opposition bloc and were elected to the parliament this April. How will Pashinyan act now in the same bloc with Marukyan when their major task for this autumn is to launch Armenia’s withdrawal from EAEU? This Russian-led Union has become “a burr under the West’s saddle.” Yet in 2012, Hillary Clinton called the idea of EAEU a “move to re-Sovietize the region” and vowed to thwart a new Soviet Union. “We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it,” he said. A couple of years later, the EAEU has become a reality, though economically it cannot compete with the U.S. and EU economies yet. Meantime, politically, it can well spoil the West’s plans, considering the processes in the region where most of EAEU member-countries are located.

Russian-led EAEU’s political influence may grow even more given the hardline policy towards Iran, “closed door” to EU and ultimatums of European politicians to Turkey, Qatar’s possible access to the EAEU market (in May, 2017, during Armenian president’s official visit to Qatar, the country’s transit opportunities were discussed with Emir as an opportunity to access the Union countries), as well as “sudden” boycott of Qatar immediately after President Trump’s visit. However, this defies the logic of the West’s policy of sanctions to weaken Russia. So, U.S. has actually found what Clinton called “effective ways” against Russia.

As Russia withstands sanctions and EAEU development is gathering pace due to cooperation with such superpowers as China, India, Iran and others, the West decided to return to its favorite strategy and shake the Union. The processes against EAEU in Armenia seem artificial now when official statistics shows positive dynamics in the country’s economy. Pashinyan’s silence just pours fuel on the fire and it appears that a new wave of anti-Russian sentiments will hit the country in autumn. The local pro-European and pro-American NGO’s will join those processes, indeed.

Pashinyan will be reminded about how he criticized Marukyan for cooperating with the West. At first, few people believed in their partnership and the fight for withdrawal from EAEU may become a good reason to split the opposition ahead of April 2018.

This happens in Armenia every time when the country appears on the threshold of domestic political changes. Serzh Sargsyan’s presidential term will end next year and the country will shift to the parliamentary system of government. The future of Armenia and of many oppositionists depends on who will take the post of the prime minister after April 2018.

By Lia Khojoyan

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