Reactions to Levon Ter-Petrossian's Speech

“If the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian takes part in the pre-election campaign for the upcoming 2008 presidential elections, he will become yet another opposition figure, with all the consequences flowing from it”, Robert Kocharian told Regnum News Agency today. The incumbent president has reminded his predecessor, that the state budget of Armenia was $300 millions along with a budget deficit of $40 million, when he took over, and today the government are planning a budget of $2.5 billions.
It took president Kocharian 4 days to spell out these words, branded by Uzogh as the “bringing in heavy artillery” against the former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and serves as an important indicator, just how much importance the incumbent authorities are attaching to ex-presidents return.
Having noted the fast and balanced coverage of first president’s speech on Yerkir-Media (the video is available here), I have to state, that I’m utterly disgusted by the coverage on Public TV. [youtube=””] This piece broadcast on Public TV (and made available on YouTube thanks to Uzogh) is sheer disgrace for all journalism professionals in modern day Armenia, and I can’t understand – why the money, which I’m paying as taxes to this country, is being used in such a hideous way, and who on earth has allowed a journalist with such poor understanding of the meaning and role of journalism to work on Public TV?
Responses follow also from various political parties: Republicans seem to take it easy, while ARF-Dashnaktsutiun, the party banned by Levon Ter-Petrosian, are being highly critical, as analyzed by the 2008 Presidential Election Monitor blog:

With speculation that the former first president, Levon Ter Petrosian, might enter the fray for next year’s election, his bitter foes, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashnaktsutiun (ARF-D) have responded to Friday’s speech given on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. As has been mentioned on this blog before, although Ter Petrosian’s criticism of the current system might strike a note with much of the population, critics argue that today’s problems first materialized during his tenure as president. RFE/RL has more.

Reacting to the speech, Vahan Hovannisian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader and deputy parliament speaker, said Ter-Petrosian has no moral right to make such accusations because his eight-year rule was also marked by fraudulent elections, human rights abuses and other serious shortcomings.
“He spoke as if the population has already forgotten Levon Ter-Petrosian’s days in power — political repressions, the severe economic crisis that must not be linked with the war [with Azerbaijan,] and the terrible atmosphere that led to a massive emigration,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL.

Onnik Krikoryan also takes a look at the responses on Armenian newspapers, as well as the post by Nazarian, with very interesting comments on the video I’ve posted above:

In this piece they accuse LTP of allowing corruption become even worse, political assassinations, economic misdeeds, etc. Obviously, they did not forget to sing the old tired song about the cold and dark years either. It’s a powerful piece indeed; Goebbels would be proud of it.
But when you try to analyze the situation a little, you realize that this piece tells a lot more about the misdeeds of the current regime than LTP. Corruption now is much worse than during the LTP years as the amount of bribes has grown together with the number of areas where you need to grease palms to get business done.
The biggest political assassination occurred on Serzh Sargsian’s watch when the PM and Speaker of Parliament, together with ministers and MP-s, were murdered. Add to that a number of officials killed such as the Prosecutor General a few years ago and people who were officials during the HHSh rule (Artsrun Margarian,
The polarization of the economy in the hands of a few people again occurred during the Kocharian/Sargsian years.
I am still undecided about the condition of democracy during LTP vs. the current administration. LTP banned the Dashnak Party in 1994. The Kocharian regime allowed it back into business but has been suppressing any dissent with carrots like government posts or sticks such as jailing and/or beating the crap out of the oppositionists.

Of other responses to Ter-Petrossian’s return I find especially noteworthy the posts by Unzipped and Narjan. The latter posted on September 21st a thoughtful piece, in which he speculates, that the former president’s comeback is staged by the current authorities and is directed against ARF-Dashnaktsutyun.
I can say, that I also held the opinion, that LTP’s return is being encouraged by the incumbent authorities, but at the moment I’m really undecided as to what I should think. Guess we will just have to wait and see.
As to Unzipped, I am amazed at how similar to my own views is his description of current political situation:

I noticed general tendency that people try to create an impression that there is no other choice in Armenia, they are the only ones. I do not buy it. Unfortunately, it seems that so far there is no real, ‘working’ candidate for opposition. And I do not want to make a choice between the lesser of evils, it is not a choice, it’s like a lottery, and I do not trust lottery. I want to have real choice. And by choice I do not mean that “anyone else will be better”. I need real alternative. If you do not provide me with a CHOICE, I’d rather stick with the current status quo, however critical I may be towards them.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. It sometimes seems to me that both Ter-Petrossian and Bobby Kocharian (BK) (or Serzhik Sarkissian (SS), for that matter) are particles of the same power chain playing the game of portraying each other as foes, while essentially being offspring of the same political circle. Can we claim that there has been a radical, substantive change of authority? If they are foes, why would Ter-Petrossian be allowed to live untroubled all these years? Kocharian has never attempted to make LTP or any of his accomplices accountable for the crimes they have committed in the early 1990s. LTP’s supporters remained, and even advanced career-wise, in the Kocharian-led government. As if there exists a tacit agreement between them: you leave me in impunity for my crimes, and I’ll do the same for yours’.
    Whether Levon, Bobby, or Serzhik, I’m afraid it makes no difference for ordinary people. All of them exhibit the signs of undemocratic, unelected, wealth-hungry, unaccountable, self-centered, and repressive rulers. It is hard to imagine that powers who manipulate events in this world will ever allow for public-spirited, charismatic liberal leaders to emerge on the political horizon. Individuals like LTP, BK, or SS are tied with shadowy external power brokers who prefer illiberal, susceptible, manageable leaders as opposed to popular, patriotic individuals.
    I admire my Armenian people whose widespread apathy and abhorrence towards those in power—past or present—is another form of civil disobedience that is impossible to subdue. From biology I know professionally: when worms are left alone (with no other noble species amidst them) in a can, they start gobbling each other up. Let’s leave the rulers in the can . . .

  2. […] Armenian Observer also carries a digest of reactions to Ter Petrosian’s speech. Referring to the TV report mentioned in the last post, Observer says that he is disgusted by the […]

  3. You know, not that I want to back Ter Petrosian in this, but some issues should now be raised after Kocharian’s response, I think.
    First of all, why on earth did abandon his native Karabakh to become prime minister under Ter Petrosian in 1997 given that the 96 election was falsified, why did he breach the constitution to run in the 98 election, did he not only inherit the system of corruption and take it to new heights and so on. I also think Kocharian could publicly acknowledge that he should never have allowed the sale of ArmenTel to the Greeks as well, and so on.
    Also, I don’t think you can compare state budgets in a transitional former Soviet republic ten years apart. Perhaps if it was 4 years after a change of power, but not 10 years. Of course, it’s true that the budget has been increased significantly since 2003, however, although as Observer has questioned on this blog recently, how has that been achieved and what is the true worth of that increase given the appreciation of the dram and what some believe to be “hidden” inflation.
    All that said, though, if Kocharian’s response can be seen to be infantile, Ter Petrosian’s can be criticized as well. As Vazgen Manoukian and others have said, rather than attack the government for pretty much the same crimes that can be said about his own regime, he could have at least shown some remorse and apologized. However, he didn’t, and I think that shows a breathtaking arrogance.
    Still, with the first and second presidents openly attacking each other, perhaps this can now encourage a real analysis and debate about both their administrations and where Armenia is as a country. I thought it interesting, for example, how Artmika wrote in his post that he favors continuity, stability and the status quo. As I said, this might be a very interesting discussion to watch unfold, and one that might force some real debate between candidates, including from Sarkisian.
    Regarding what Armine says, it is unfortunate, however, that what we might be seeing is a struggle between candidates who were both part of the system in the 1990s and who perhaps offer nothing different to the system in place today. Likewise, it is also unfortunate that we have no clear alternative opposition candidate in sight who might be able to take on Sarkisian thanks to petty rivalry and personal ambitions in the opposition ranks as well as in civil society.
    Artur Baghdasarian and Raffi Hovannisian’s parties represent the new opposition — and one that is fresher and has more potential than we had in 2003. Yet, once again, we seem to be looking at the same old stagnant names who have already lost all credibility with the electorate. The system, perhaps, will continue to replicate itself.

  4. I also find it distressing to view civil society’s attitude to elections and the political system in the past few months. In May they were against Artur Baghdasarian and even to some extent Raffi Hovannisian in the parliamentary election. This was not the real opposition, they said, and now some circles continue to allege that Orinats Yerkir and Heritage are collaborating with the government.
    Now, the radical opposition and even the more moderate voices such as Aram Sarkisian, Nikol Pashinian and Stepan Demirchian are pushing Ter Petrosian as a possible candidate. But that’s not good enough for another segment of civil society.
    Artur Baghdasarian, no (because he is considered to be a false opposition). Raffi Hovannisian, no (because he considered to clean to survive at the top in Armenia), Levon Ter Petrosian, no (because of his past tenure as president, or also because he is considered by some to be working with the government despite his radical opposition colleagues).
    So, who do we have? Vazgen Manukian? Stepan Demirchian? Artashes Geghamian?
    You know what? I think maybe the only option in such a climate of mistrust and mutual accusations and inability to consider anything past the personality of candidates is to simply scrap elections. In such an environment Serzh is going to win, but perhaps that’s how it should be if civil society and the opposition really seem unable to get their act together. Why go through this pretense anymore? Why wonder why the population takes its bribes or doesn’t bother to vote anymore? Why wonder why people are fed up with everyone — including the opposition and civil society?
    Maybe the status quo is what’s needed in Armenia when you consider that as much as everyone says they dislike them, they hold enough of a grudge against other possible candidates to even consider what has become something of a reality in during elections in established democracies — tactical voting. So, without further ado, as the situation stands in Armenia among the groups who should be pushing for democratic change in Armenia but who are really only interested in personal vendettas and ambitions, I congratulate the next president of the Republic of Armenia… Serzh Sarkisian.

  5. Onnik – I don’t know about the Civil Society – but I myself am leaning more and more towards ARF Dashnaktsutyun’s candidate for a change, and I really don’t care who will run – Vahan or Armen. I like the way this party is working!
    PS: I would also consider Raffi – but he’s not eligible to run.

  6. Personally I don’t think the ARF-D stand a chance and I’m sure as part of government there’s plenty of dirt that can be revealed about them which will shake their words about ideology to the very foundations. Besides, the majority of the population don’t care about ideology or their history. If it gets to this level I assume vote bribes will define everything again. Still, I’m pleased to see that you at least are thinking about choices.
    Therefore, perhaps I’m being too cynical about the situation here, but if that’s true then one other thing needs to happen. Rather than privately push for candidates they prefer or want in power, the media and civil society in general must instead push only for discussion on key issues and topics related to Armenia so the electorate can make an informed decision.
    If that’s the case, we’ll have real progress here and then the possibility for a candidate to be chosen by the people — including one from the ARF-D — exists. Unfortunately, however, from my own experience during the parliamentary election, some NGOs in receipt of USAID/CASP funding instead worked as agents against the Republican, Prosperous Armenia, ARF-D and Orinats Yerkir parties.
    It’s why I also consider civil society to be party responsible for the situation in Armenia, but hope it can change this time round. It actually doesn’t matter who wins the election, in my opinion, as long as the environment for discussion and debate exists, and as long as the electorate have the ability to make an informed decision.

  7. Interesting for me. A Dashnak president even though it would likely worsen bad relations with Turkey and also likely mean that the Karabakh conflict would never be resolved?

  8. I hope wholeheartedly that Dashnaktsutyun will lose it. To be honset, can’t (well, refuse to) picture a Dashnak president for modern Armenia. I accept that at least it’s a solid party with distinct ideology. However, nationalist agenda behind their local and central ‘Buro’-s does not leave a room for optimism, and I fear increased intolerance and inflexible politics both inside Armenia and towards neighbours – that’s the least what we need now.

  9. Guys – don’t forget, that it would mean a Dashnak president, who lacks majority in Parliament. I want to see checks and balances working in this darn country, and I want to see the Parliament taking over more often then not.
    In the scenario I am thinking, we would make a big move towards parliamentarism (given Dashnak president doesn’t cooperate with Republican/Bargavach under a new coalition agreement).
    I also think, that with the current tendencies of Diaspora pushing for international recognition of Genocide in the world, a Dashnak president would not change much in the negative attitude of Turkey towards Armenia – it is as bad as ever!

  10. Well, as long as a Dashnak president doesn’t say everything he feels during presidential summits with Aliyev, force the negotiations to stop and make war the only inevitable solution to the conflict.
    However, point taken about a Dashnak president domestically. Serzh will effectively rule the country in that area with a huge Republican majority and the presidency will just be symbolic save for international gatherings where I hope no blunders or slip of tongues are made to really make outside observers consider the ARF-D to be an ultra-nationalist force not interested in good relations with Georgia let alone Armenia and Azerbaijan.
    So, nothing would change internally — Serzh would be in power — but Armenia would suffer internationally. Now maybe I understand why many hoped a non-party aligned candidate would be best. Now I understand why some people hoped someone like Oskanian would run with some international experience and pedigree behind him.

  11. I’d love to see parlamentarism developed and working in Armenia. That will be very important for democracy. But the scenario may well develop the following way: Dashnak president will eventually resolve the parliament and call for new elections. And taking into account that they were no strangers in the whole ‘bribing’ business, and the state of democracy in Armenia, it won’t take long till they get both patliament and presidency under their control. We need to have democracy-prone President for scenario to develop in your desired way. I know, the question remains, where to find him?..

  12. Add in dual citizenship and the possible reintroduction of absentee voting and potentially the ARF-D will be able to perpetuate itself for years…
    Well, until Azerbaijan and/or Turkey declares war, perhaps.

  13. LTP has spoken. . .
    His greatest flaw was that he did not sound repentant. His distinctive egotism, snobbism, and lack of consideration for his own people precluded him from apologizing to those hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens whom he’d made impoverished, deceived, and uprooted. He sounded repetitive, unconvincing, outmoded, and, at times, even Armenophobic.
    Unfortunately, Armenians may again be left with the pitiful “lesser of two evils” option. As much as they loathe the current ruling regime of provincial Karabakhis, they may come to realize that the re-emergence of LTP may be a greater evil. If, of course, his speech was not an intrigue that LTP’s shadowy external patrons wanted him to do to shake up the whole political scene before the election.

  14. As much as I try to remain positive about Armenia’s immediate future in relation to the upcoming presidential election, I just can’t rid myself of a near conviction that Serzh will in all likelihood be made the next one. Despite the fact that most of the people despise him and his fellow bumpkin gharabakhis, the choice for him is more deep-rooted than many would think. This is not only about the repressive, anti-popular, falcificating regime that will oppress people’s choice during the election. There is a multitude of other hidden factors that are in work to make him the next president.
    One is that it is generally known that Serzh was an officer for the Central Intelligence Board (GRU) of the Soviet Army, and his institutional links with the intelligence/military structures in Russia are very strong.
    Next, historically the Karabakhi-Russian ties have in certain episodes been stronger than the Armenia-Russian ties with this emphasis present in the Karabakhis’ psyche, and Russia has a vested geostrategic interest in seeing both Armenia and Karabakh subdued.
    The other factor is that it is generally believed (although history have in some instances showed the opposite) that strong autocratic, repressive regimes tend to be more inclined towards making concessions in conflict situations than liberal participatory governments. And this is something that makes Serzh’s candidacy even more important, if the West expects to see the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolved.
    Lastly, mightier countries and those shadowy power elites who attempt to direct the world events, would most likely prefer corrupt, rustic, self-centered figures like Serzh than open-minded, reasonable, public-oriented individuals, because leaders like him are more predictable and susceptible to political control. And control is what those power elites need most. Much more that empty talks like promoting democracy and human rights.
    That is why, Onnik, their cabals, like USAID/CASP give out money during the elections to Armenian NGOs who instead work as agents against various local parties. Is USAID/CASP not aware of this? Fully aware, I assure you. But the money is needed to maintain the status quo, eliminate any chances for uncontrolled political change.
    Had elections been left on people’s choice, everything would have been different. Not necessarily successful, but more natural, I would say. With those interfering forces, unfortunately, this natural balance of failures and successes of a nation is being upset.

  15. I would rather have Serzhik than a Dashnak president. At least Serzhik is a centrist and not as nationalist. Armenia will probably be doomed if a Dashnak ‘got elected’.

  16. To artmika re: “We need to have democracy-prone President for scenario to develop in your desired way. I know, the question remains, where to find him?”
    If there is a will, there is a way. Finding a democracy-prone, open-minded, and public-oriented president and like-minded inner circle among Armenians doesn’t appear to be a problem. With the political and financial backing that both the authorities and all of the opposition leaders in Armenia receive, there’d be no problem to bring responsible, public-spirited leaders to the fore. The problem is that there is no will on the part of those evil supra-national forces who, among other things, prepare younger generations of political leaders, to find someone with these characteristics. Such people are largely unwanted: they tend to be less susceptible to political control considering it repulsive to human dignity. That’s why parochial, illiberal autocrats like Serzhik or Robik, or bought and paid-for opposition leaders are in greater demand. The preference for this type of rulers, unfortunately, puts domestic and regional political stability over people’s desire for well-being, promotion of democratic values and civil rights. Is there anything that could be done to resist this? I simply don’t know.

  17. Sure, if it is only a matter of picking up… I understand what you mean, Armine, and share your frustration on enourmous influence and manipulative power of supra-national structures [they call us ‘newly independent states’, ‘developing nations’or sometimes ‘emerging nations’ – one of the most rediculous definitions ever]. And yes, those people you described remain largely unwanted. However, I beleive that inner forces within the country can make changes happen despite all those ‘evil influence’. Otherwise, we should not even bother, everything is decided for us! There is no such thing as absolute control or power, there is always some percentage that is out of their control and that percentage can make changes despite all those forces. But unfortunately, those indipendent minded people whom difficult to control, often are unable to join forces with other independent minded people, because they all are just too independent… they all are kings… I just do not see broad civic democracy-oriented movement in Armenia right now, similar to one we had, say, in late 80-s/early 90s. Of course, we may speculate that all those NGOs are getting money from the same supra-national structures, so supposedly they would follow the desires of their rulers. But it can’t be only that. Something is missing in this whole picture, something local, from within…

  18. Currently, 85% of Armenia’s borders are closed. Due to Russian Georgian crisis the border between them are closed too and Armenia does not have direct rail and road links with Russia. Is this situation sustainable? Kocharian depicts a rosy picture but there are around 70.000 illegal Armenian citizens working mainly in the construction business in Turkey. If the economy was so good, why did these people go to Turkey? I hope this presidential election will change Armenia’s foreign policy. There has to be a peacefull sollution in Karabakh and normalization of relations with Turkey.

  19. LTP is the next President, ARF is the future main oppoistion, Hanrapetakans will dissapear or become a small party of only ideological people.

  20. It’s interesting how these people are trying to manipulate his speech. If kocharyan and serjik ar so innocent why do they have the need to manipulate his speeches. You do not need to comment on the speech, people are not stupid. Let them make decisions about weather or not he is right. You do not need to remind what happened 10yrs ago. The fact is, that thow two criminals have bloody hands and they do not deserve to govern Armenians. Whoever wrote that manipulation editorial is the biggest davajan of Armenians.

  21. I agree with Narine. People who hear LTP’s speech have spine and know how to formulate their own ideas from it, unlike those who get their news from zombies or junkyard crowd. No leader in 3,000-year-old Armenian history has achieved as much as LTP has. He had secured Armenian’s independence and won a war. No corruption and killing was done by him (1996 Serjik wanted to kill protesters, but LTP instructed him to shoot, only to the air). Current government butchers’ for ten years wanted to find a flaw on him, yet have found none, not even a hundred dollar error. Russian president Boris Yeltzin asked LTP if he needed help in 1998 after his resignation, but he had declined. Now compare the lovely couple with LTP, and see who has manipulated or is manipulating people. Wise up blog writers and display nobility as LTP does and write things based on founded facts and evidence, not emotions.

  22. Instead of picking apart the religious-cult like worshiping of LTP in your text, I’ll just highlight one sentence:
    “No leader in 3,000-year-old Armenian history has achieved as much as LTP has.”
    During LTP’s regime, Armenia was depopulated at a rate and quantity eclipsed only by the Genocide. He may be your messiah, but I think the Armenian nation has other values. I would argue that no leader has done more damage to our nation in modern times, but I guess this is somewhat subjective.

  23. To AH or People like him/her:
    A stone will not be thrown at your direction.

  24. OK, thx. I am happy to return the favor.

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