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Tsunami in Armenia’s political field: what is on the surface?

Nikol Pashinyan. Photo: ntv.ru

The political tsunami Nikol Pashinyan warned about while speaking in the parliament recently had come long before the warning. It was his “Velvet Revolution.” Today we can see huge waves sweeping off Armenia’s political system.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), a force that enjoyed total dominance just a month ago, is now beheaded. Ex-premier Serzh Sargsyan has withdrawn into shadows. The rumors that he is going to cede his leadership in the RPA have not been confirmed.

One German newspaper wonders why Sargsyan resigned so easily. Perhaps, because Armenia is not Germany? Or because parliamentary rule is a nonsense unless based on firm party traditions?

The constitutional reforms carried out by the RPA and its leader Serzh Sargsyan in 2015 have proved to be a delayed action bomb for the party and its rule. It seems that when fixing in the constitution a point about a guaranteed majority, the Republicans (who are members of the European People’s Party) forgot to get guarantees for their own selves, guarantees against a revolution – though repeatedly warned by experts.

The revolution has swept off their rule and today Nikol Pashinyan is fighting not so much for the office of Premier as for a guaranteed majority in the new parliament. It is obvious that his alliance with ARFD and Prosperous Armenia is situational. Not yet in power, Pashinyan is already reaping the laurels of a national leader. So, once in power, he will certainly be able to give his Civil Contract party all-time high popularity – for only this will be a guarantee of his total rule in Armenia.

The Republicans’ charges that Pashinyan’s foreign political position is not stable were very cynical but fair. Once an oppositionist, Pashinyan voted against Armenia’s entry into the Eurasian Economic Union. Now, as a Prime Minister hopeful, he is promising not to withdraw from the Union – even though the very name of his parliamentary bloc, Yelq (Way-Out) means the way-out of the Eurasian Economic Union. But the problem is that the RPA acted likewise when in power: it first advocated complete association with the EU and then changed its mind and joined the Eurasian Economic Union. No comment.

Today Pashinyan has all grounds for seeking power on behalf of his people. The people must give him a chance to bring Armenia out of the regional pit and with the help of its Diaspora, to step into a new space and to get access to resources outside the region. Pashinyan enjoys people’s confidence but how will he use it?

He cannot be unaware that one of the key resources for Armenia is the millions of Armenians living in Russia, who have fed their families at home for years and are ready to do it. Each year they transfer to Armenia a sum that is equivalent to the country’s budget revenues. Until now that money has gone mostly into the pockets of bankers and monopolist importers. Monopoly and different tricks, like AMD rate manipulations at the times of high demand (for example, before New Year’s holidays) helped them to pump money out of people’s pockets.

Pashinyan says that if he comes into power, he will focus on domestic affairs. He will be able to do it only if Azerbaijan refrains from attempts to take revenge in Nagorno-Karabakh. Does Pashinyan have such guarantees? He obviously doesn’t.

Today the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is as explosive as never before. Pashinyan’s May 2 statements in the Armenian parliament will give Azerbaijan more grounds to believe that the Armenians are reluctant to change the status quo and more hopes for Russia’s connivance. The changes in the Armenian politics can make Russia less interested in helping Armenia.

Pashinyan remains a “dark horse” for Russia and, as you may know, people do not play such horses. This is why Pashinyan should already try to gain Russia’s support and to prove that he is a reliable partner not only in words. May 9 may become an excellent pretext for him to make certain symbolic gestures with respect to Russia. He should also try to avoid any anti-Russian steps in Armenia and the region.

The internal political tsunami has affected Armenia in any case. The May 8 election will show who will come to the surface. The RPA may try to take revenge, but this is hardly possible.

In any case, the election will be followed by a parliamentary campaign, where Pashinyan will no longer be able to act as a radial opposition in a cap on his head and a knapsack on his back. Pashinyan will not be able to win the elections as “the leader of the revolution.” He will have to appear as “the leader of the nation” – a leader with clear understanding that it was the policy of estrangement from Russia that caused crises in Ukraine and Georgia and that in Armenia such a policy will result in a war and destruction.

A leader understanding that Turkey, who is involved in very complex and dangerous processes, is absolutely unpredictable for Armenia and that only Russia’s “nuclear umbrella” can guarantee the existence of the Armenian state.

A leader understanding that Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be left face to face with Azerbaijan but, on the other hand, it should not be a disabling geopolitical burden for tiny Armenia.

Pashinyan must know that settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is vital for Armenia rather than for Azerbaijan, whose population is actively growing. Pashinyan’s position that “we will not negotiate for the sake of negotiations as long as Aliyev keeps threatening to occupy Yerevan” may be fair but losing as when talking about “the return of Yerevan,” Aliyev implies the demographic aspect and this means that he is ready to wait as his country has oil, gas and transit routes and time is in its favor.

On the other hand, none of Armenia’s enemies is going to give Pashinyan time for solving his domestic problems. Only Russia can do it as it is also short of time. And this is exactly why the Kremlin’s position is that the ongoing events in Armenia are its internal affair.

Today Pashinyan cannot have any guarantees that the political tsunami in Armenia will not provoke a regional tsunami. Pashinyan should make it clear that he is not going to provoke regional shocks - as Mikheil Saakashvili attempted once. His promise not to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization means a promise not to commit a national suicide. On the one hand, it is encouraging, on the other hand, it is naïve – as some members of the Eurasian Economic Union would be happy if he withdrew.

As a “national leader,” Pashinyan should understand that all states are different but all of them have crucial problems. For Armenia it is Nagorno-Karabakh, for Russia it is Crimea. Only by officially recognizing Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, will Pashinyan will be able to buy time for both his own self and Nagorno-Karabakh, to crush the RPA’s monopoly on strategic relations with Russia and to disavow the charges that he has contacts with “Navalnys” and “Saakashvilis” through the U.S. Department of State. What about it, Nikol? Go ahead?!

Vigen Akopyan, specially for EADaily

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