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8 days of power vacuum in Armenia: opposition hopes for sabotage of elites

“As parliamentarian, I have established ties with some representatives of the ruling elite as well. So, I receive information from both political quarters and security agencies. Often, I get messages from persons whom I do not know, but who know me. Analyzing this information, I can state that many inside the ruling elite and security agencies are ready for sabotage in case of a force-majeure…” Armen Martirosyan, chairman of Heritage Party, a member of the Front for the Sake of Armenia, said in an interview with EADaily's correspondent in Yerevan.

Mr. Martirosyan, the opposition has started actively opposing Serzh Sargsyan’s possible nomination for the post of Prime Minister of Armenia. Despite identical political agenda, the opposition parties have failed to unite and they are acting on three “fronts” at once now. Armenia’s opposition has failed to unite against the authorities for decades. What is the reason?

I cannot speak on behalf of all opposition forces, but I can speak on behalf of Heritage Party that has always urged consolidation of the opposition, has always come out with relevant initiatives and has always been ready to cooperate with all opposition forces without preconditions. We know that the only way to win the regime is through consolidated efforts of the opposition and the people. Otherwise, it is impossible to change the power. We learned this from our own experience after the presidential election of 2013, when Raffi Hovannisian received about 70% of votes, but his votes were stolen and the other opposition forces left him alone due to their personal ambitions and envy.

Still, you have not answered my question about the reason behind the opposition’s failure to unite?

There are several reasons...One of them are personal ambitions of leaders, their efforts to promote their intra-party interests, but the major reason is that most of the opposition forces are controlled by the government. I have already said earlier that 90% of political forces in Armenia are controlled and managed by the president’s administration. It became more than evident during parliamentary elections of 2017, when Heritage Party once again suggested the opposition to unite into a single front, but many pseudo-opposition forces secretly cooperated with the government. What prevents consolidation of opposition forces are not ambitions, but dependence of many political forces that call themselves opposition on Serzh Sargsyan’s administration. Actions of these political forces are directly orchestrated by the president’s administration and it will become obvious soon. A few days are left, let’s wait and see. These forces will invent incredible reasons of why they will try to break unification of the opposition and undermine our fight as such. One can see certain cleansing of the ranks of power already now.

You will not name those opposition forces, will you?

Sure, everything is evident, but if there are people who have doubts, just in a few days they will make sure that I was right. I’d like to note that two of the opposition fronts cooperate and enjoy mutual understanding – I am speaking about “Deny Serzh” civil initiative and the Front for the State of Armenia. We fully support each other’s initiatives, coordinate them and participate in joint campaigns. In this sense, there are no problems. As regards Civil Contract Party, it will become clear shortly if it will join our camp or will keep fighting the government separately.

Civil Contract leader Nikol Pashinyan has already announced his plans to cooperate with “Deny Serzh” initiative…

I welcome this. In such case, “Deny Serzh” initiative will turn into a platform uniting the opposition. It is evident that the people will support only a united opposition. The political forces that will refuse to unite will play into the hands of the authorities no matter what goals they will pursue.

Nevertheless, Pashinyan pointed at the major reason preventing cooperation with the Front for the Sake of Armenia – it is difference of the fighting tactics i.e. he is for peaceful actions. What about the Front?

I officially state on behalf of the Front for the Sake of Armenia – our fight is and will be peaceful and we will be using the entire set of actions of civil disobedience. If someone really strives for unity, he always finds common areas of interest, whereas when someone denies unity, he always finds “demarcation lines” even if there are no such lines at all.

If your assumptions are right and 90% of the political field is controlled by the president’s administration, your fight is either deemed to failure or it is of symbolic nature - just for the process, not for the outcome.

The fght is necessary anyway in order that the people do not lose their hope and do not become demoralized. Therefore, I do not share the approaches of those pseudo-opposition forces that seek excuses for their unwillingness to take active steps and explain it with alleged efforts “to save the people from another disappointment.” The people are already disappointed and our fight inspires them with hope. Besides, there were many cases in history, when a fight that was inherently deemed to failure ended in a victory. In our situation as well it may be a success in case of certain circumstances.

What circumstances do you mean?

The first and a mandatory condition should be awakening and consolidation of the people. The country will be in a force-majeure situation for about 8 days starting from April 9 through April 17, when Serzh Sargsyan will not be in power de-jure, and under the new constitution, the president will have no real power, whereas the parliament speaker is not a political figure to undertake any responsibility for radical actions in case of emergency.

Besides, many government representatives will avoid responsibility for possible solutions by force, as they realize that it may be condemned by the world community, first, and may work against themselves, like in happened to Robert Kocharyan, second. Now the ruling elite are trying to scapegoat him for the incidents of March 1, 2008, though it is known that Kocharyan did not make decisions single-handedly. So, in such circumstances, only a consolidated opposition may achieve success with the help of the people.

Well, have you tried to feel the pulse inside the ruling elite? Are there any discontented persons ready to support the opposition in case of a force-majeure situation?

Of course, there are. There are many such people, this information is trustworthy. As parliamentarian, I have established ties with some representatives of the ruling elite as well. So, I receive information from both political quarters and security agencies. Often, I get messages from persons whom I do not know, but who know me. Analyzing this information, I can state that many inside the ruling elite and security agencies are ready for sabotage in case of a force-majeure…

Mr. Martirosyan, what makes the society in Armenia amorphous. It avoids protests, though it seems quite unhappy with the situation in the country. In 1988, during the Karabakh movement and later for independence of Armenia, the people united in the blink of an eye.

There are many reasons. First, the West actively supported the Movement of 1988. Since then, the Armenian opposition has not received any support by Western powers anymore. Besides, in Soviet years, there was a highly intellectual, ideologically developed generation ready to fight for their kids and goals. Later, under heavy social burden, the society has degraded and social issues have come to forefront. Nowadays, people are struggling to survive and they have no time or strength for ideology and ideas. Besides, there is a high level of migration and intellectuals and concerned citizens were the first to migrate. This has led to lumpenization. Another reason is unresolved Karabakh conflict. The government propaganda has frightened the people for decades with possible resumption of military actions in Karabakh in case of domestic destabilization.

Actually, the known phrase from “The Twelve Chairs” movie – “Stand firm! The West will help us!” - is not applicable to Armenia?

First, we do not expect such help; we count on our own resources and our people. However, if the West helps democratize Armenia, we will be happy. If Russia helps the country in this issue, we will be especially glad.

Why does Armenia still lack a strong opposition?

Well, I do not think that it is not strong. It has “survived” in conditions where all financial resources are in the hands of the regime, no businessperson risks to fund the opposition not to face repressions, and oppositionists experience repressions, including arrests, and media is fully controlled by the regime.

So, the opposition is strong, but it is not large and it lacks resources. Nevertheless, the opposition had real chances for victory, but failed to use them after the presidential elections of 2003, 2008 and 2013 and during the Constitutional Referendum of 2015, when Prosperous Armenia Party stepped back under pressure of the regime.

You link opposition’s success to its unification and public support…Let’s assume that you have managed to do it and a critical quantity of people, about 100 000, take to the streets, what mechanisms do you suggest to prevent Serzh Sargsyan’s election to the post of prime minister? Vice Speaker of the Parliament, Spokesperson of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia Eduard Sharmazanov often repeats that the people voted for RPA in 2017 and granted it the right to nominate its own candidate for prime minister.

First, RPA’s victory in 2017 and in other elections is very doubtful. As to mechanisms to prevent Serzh Sargsyan from becoming the prime minister, it is possible under public pressure only. There were many such cases in history. Recall, the recent incident in Slovakia, where the prime minister had to resign under public pressure. Historically, people always win when they rise up.

In 2008, the people revolted but did not win…

Only part of the people took to the streets then, it was insufficient. Now, we need about 50000 people to start civil unrest and use all the opportunities of peaceful fight – pickets, rallies, marches, strikes – and we will achieve success. The authorities will have to accept the people’s will sooner or later.

It has become trendy speaking of peaceful methods of fight and condemning revolutions and revolutionaries, but historically, changes were made through revolutions mainly… Are you ready for a revolt if needed?

I agree with you, that thesis was “leaked” to the political field by the government agitprop. Nevertheless, we support peaceful fight at least because in such case we will have more chances of international support and confidence. People always fear radical manifestations.

Where are Raffi Hovannisian, Seyran Ohanyan, Vardan Oskanyan now? Did they leave the people? Are they disappointed?

Why do you think so? I am sure they will be in the Liberty Square when people gather there.

When people gather, many will come…

No, I don’t think so, many will simply fear to appear in public without their guards.

For conclusion, do you believe that your fight will be a success?

Whether I believe or not is not important. The point is that we have no alternative…

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