Heritage Party Declaration on Armenia’s Past, Present, and Future

Now more than ever, as the schism between the Armenian people and its government continues to expand, the Heritage Party calls for a national rehabilitation process. Such a process, if it is to be meaningful and permanent, must proceed not in spite but in full and brave recognition of the events that have unfurled in our Republic over the past few months.

February 19, election day, was the evident disregard of the national will, but we must bear in mind that the campaigns that preceded it and the human rights violations that followed it are part and parcel of that disregard. The campaigns were inherently unequal in terms of media access and fairness of coverage, the misuse of administrative levers, and the endemic application of the means of state for partisan advantage. At times votes were purchased, at others they were forced.

The elections, therefore, were prejudiced before they were held. But even on election day, substantial and systemic violations were recorded across the Republic, with grave implications for the qualitative integrity of the electoral process and the quantitative reflection of its true results. This does not happen under democratic governments.

Nor do democratic governments use force to suppress their own citizens. In Armenia’s case, hundreds of thousands of Armenians gathered in Liberty Square peacefully to protest the conduct and official count of the vote. That the number of protesters grew and doubtless triggered an unpredictable concern among the authorities was no validation for suppressing them. And yet on March 1, the incumbent president of Armenia declared an effectively unlawful state of emergency. This meant, in breach of every national and international norm of civil and political liberty and of common democratic ethics, that there would be no free speech and assembly, no free media, and no political pamphlets that the government did not approve.

Against this background, sadly so reminiscent of the Soviet era, international broadcasters, when beginning to report on Armenia, would be interrupted by darkness or by advertisements. Websites were blocked and radio stations kicked off the air, all in an effort to keep the Armenian people ignorant of the actions of their own government and the world beyond.

And now to the actions. On the morning of March 1, and deep into the night of the same day, the authorities began a systematic crackdown upon their fellow citizens, unleashing professional provocateurs to stir up the crowds and giving themselves and others an excuse for violence. Freedom was squelched, seven civilians and a police officer were killed, hundreds were injured, and all were deprived of their fundamental human rights. But for the forcible dispersal of Liberty Square in the early morning, the tragedy of that night would not have befallen the nation.

Deprived of their voice, the protesters began to lose their leaders. On a daily basis, security personnel including masked men wearing various uniforms took away or arrested opposition figures and rank-and-file participants and proceeded to indict them on various creative charges up to organizing a coup d’etat. Four members of Parliament who had dared to endorse the opposition candidate were stripped of their immunity and also charged. The intent of the special operation and ensuing state of emergency was simple: to attempt to drive the Armenian people into fear and to warn the Constitutional Court against any fantasies of reaching an independent verdict. The brute tactics worked and the authorities, once again, upheld in court the elections they wanted on February 19.

Today emergency rule continues in force, citizens remain in jail often with restricted access to attorneys, and the media—the role of which it is to serve as an informed and informing watchdog against government conduct and corruption—have been pushed into oblivion or complicity. The political arrests and detentions show no sign of abating, and the measures of the Prosecutor General’s Office have now extended to interrogating Heritage’s members of Parliament, immorally attacking their integrity, and announcing the deprivation, however illegal, of their right to visit citizens at their place of incarceration.

The unconscionability displayed on February 19 and the brutality used to protect it on March 1 remain unresolved issues. No state of emergency, accompanied as it is by an aggressive, one-sided “public information” vertical which deepens the public divide rather than healing it, will succeed in securing the collective amnesia of state and society. It must be lifted forthwith.

What the country needs—what the people require and their government can no longer postpone—is a brave, new national discourse. In that discourse the Heritage Party will continue to serve in any capacity which Armenia’s citizenry demands, and it will use its every resource to achieve the reconciliation of the body politic with its government, and the government with its past. To that end, Heritage calls for national solidarity, a multi-partisan public project for a dignified dialogue, the release of obviously political detainees, and an immediate plenipotentiary inquiry into the tragedy of March 1—its causes and consequences both—whose just and comprehensive findings might help the recovery of democracy in Armenia.

Only in this way will we, at this most critical hour in modern Armenian history, be able to realize the national transformation that is long overdue but now imperative for the sake of Hayastan and her people’s future.

The Heritage Party
17 March 2008
Yerevan

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27 thoughts on “Heritage Party Declaration on Armenia’s Past, Present, and Future

  1. It is indeed encouraging to see at least one of the opposition parties take a principled stand on the issues. That’s more than can be said for the ARF-D or the Orintas Yerkir parties….

  2. I think the ARF-D and Orinats Yerkir are the most ORINAKELI opposition parties. Their place in history will be remembered as the parties which stayed with state and the nation at a time when the internal enemy was trying to ruin Armenia. Thanks also to them that Levon is neutralized.

    In the last election the people who voted for the healtyh powers in Armenia were about 80% It’s time to convince the other 20%.

  3. Hayrenaser – I’ve been a long time ARF-D supporter, and these days I’m rather frustrated with their stance. As to Orinats Yerkir – it is a disgrace, not an opposition party. The best thing Artur Baghdasaryan can do for the nation – is go shoot himself! He is a rare idiot, and the fact that he signed a coalition agreement with Serzh was one of the main factors that triggered the riots on March 1st, caused human deaths and disgraced the whole nation.

  4. I am no particular fan of Artur Baghdasaryan, but I fail to see what all the riotous reaction is all about. It is Politics, folks, and I think all these guys (Serj, Levon, Artur, Vahan) are playing it. If Romney accepts McCain’s prospective offer to become his VP would this justify the triggering of the mob to form, demanding blood?

    I realize Armenia is not the USA but let’s also keep things in perspective: Artur B has worked in govt, has left, and now has returned. His supporters may be disappointed, they may find it ok. I personally don’t see much wrong: maybe he wants to change from within, maybe he was lying and wants no change. Seems pretty normal to me.

    In 5 or 10 years, we may be saying it was the smartest political move for him to have made…

  5. As far as the ARF is concerned, I applaud their level-headedness, but at some point they should make a stand. As I have said in other posts, plenty of mistakes have been made, and pointing out some (not in a blame-game sense, but so as not to repeat yesterday’s mistakes tomorrow) would benefit the nation now.

    There is much to do, and I think all political forces deserve a chance (and owe it to their supporters) to attempt to work within the flawed, uneven, unfair system in an attempt to make it better. And this is not just a call to the ARF, but to any and all groups interested in a stronger Armenia.

    Whether people belive him or not, Serj has made his public appeal to all. It seems in our nations best interest to push Serj to follow through on his promises. And I meanpush in a legal, democratic, and constructive manner.

  6. Observer,

    I am not an Artur Baghdassarian fan or supporter. He might even be an idiot (even though I wouldn’t go that far).

    But there are two facts:

    1/He received an important count of votes.
    2/ He supported the state and not the destruction of the state (LTP). I don’t take the idea “opposition” seriously if that “opposition” hasn’t been given the chance to have a strong say in how the country is run.Talk is cheap,you can promise anything as opposition. But this is the second chance he gets. Let’s see. But again, his most important accomplishment is rejecting traitor LTP.

    I voted for Vahan in the election.ARF is silent at this point. It is a pity that unhappy voters didn’t choose Vahan over Levon.

    What Armenia needs is a very good coalition government and a good PM to oversee it. There was a plan to bring Armen Sargsyan from London. I don’t know if now that’s feasible. Tigran Sargsyan (from Central Bank) is a good candidate. Vazgen Manoukian could have been good about 8 years ago. Kocharian needs a rest. God Forbid if it’s Hovik Abrahamyan. But another Abrahamyan , Ara (from Moscow) could be a good choice (in the style of Rafik Hariri of Lebanon).If you have a good candidate in mind, please suggest!

  7. Frankly – what I’d like to happen ideally is for Serzh to volunterily step down and offer a new round of elections, where neither Serzh, nor Levon would be allowed to run. And I’d really love to see Armen Rustamyan as a candidate. Despite my deep dislike of Tigran Sargsyan – once you’re suggesting him, I can accept, that he is perhaps a good choice. I’d also like to see Raffi Hovhannisyan as a candidate, however, I’m somewhat concerned with his recent change of foreign policy vector, but all in all – I like and appreciate Heritage party. I wish Raffi had been allowed to run, and hadn’t been forced to support Levon. In fact – this was one of the biggest mistakes of the Sargsyan/Kocharyan duo. They were too afraid of Raffi – so they blocked him from running, overlooking the danger that LTP represents for the country, especially if he is joined by Heritage and other opposition forces.

  8. Mistake by S/K duo, maybe, ok.

    Forced to support Levon???? I do not buy this “Levon was the only one” argument. This is lazy politics. And the move cannot be justified by this laziness. No one was forced to do anything. Heritage entered the parliament just fine without the ball-and-chain of being associated with Levon.

    Armenian democracy will proceed slowly but surely once all that want better for the country work toward a better country. I respect many players in the plurality called Armenia. That all voices are not equally heard is an opinion I share. Yet, strides are being made forward. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  9. AH, the Romney/McCain analogy is not correct. If Kerry joined the Bush administration in 2004 THEN it would analogous to the Baghdasarian situation only if Bush had called Kerry a traitor and Kerry had alleged that Bush wants him dead.

    It’s funny that AB makes the American politicians look like principled and responsible people.

  10. OK Nazarian, I agree the analogy is somewhat flawed, but the point is, that it is no grounds for this “Baghdasaryan is a traitor” or “he should shoot himself” kind of witch-hunting.

    Sadly, this kind of labeling has become natural reaction (thanks for the lowering of the level of discourse, 1st president Levon) from some in the opposition camp who speak of everyone-who-is-not-with-us as some kind of heretic who should be burned at the stake.

    My point is that it is just politics, and I react strongly against this kind of hate-mongering which has become fashionable from many of Levon’s minions.

  11. I think a great prime minister would be Raffi Hovannisian. I also think that his nomination by serge will be a great move toward healing the rift between the two sides. im actually very hopeful with the recent decisions and and asweres given by sarkisyan i almost dare to belive that he might make such a move but i dont want to predict it for the fear of being called an idiot when he doesnt. I was very neutral before the elections with a slight edge to sarkisyan my main concern however was a free and fair election but levon proved to be an absolute traitor. I respect Raffi Hovannisian but i dont agree with this decleration. 10000 – 20000 people on the streets of any city is very dangerious and i belive a more dangerious confrintation would have developed if the goverment didnt act in force. Im all for the arrests ecpecially petrosyans. thges people took a great chance for armenia to propell itself to a higher level in the international comunity. the proper thing for petrosyan was to concede on the night of the election this would have done wonders for armenia.

  12. No sane person would support a depressive (proven) psychotic (proven) half-human half animal creature (still testing) called Levon Ter Petrosyan

  13. He is a rare idiot, and the fact that he signed a coalition agreement with Serzh was one of the main factors that triggered the riots on March 1st, caused human deaths and disgraced the whole nation.

    Sorry, I don’t agree with this at all and there is no basis for suggesting it. Firstly, the main reason for triggering riots was the dispersal of the overnight demonstration in Liberty Square. That was the main reason. After that, the decision by the radical opposition to barricade themselves in near the French Embassy meant clashes were inevitable. Thirdly, it was the appalling decision by the authorities to use the military rather than exhaust all other means such as water cannon etc to disperse them.

    We can also mention the fact that the radical opposition were preparing people in Liberty Square for inevitable clashes through speeches designed to solidify numbers to involve themselves in such clashes, but first of all, it was the knee-jerk dispersal of protesters on the morning of 1 March that set the scene for the riots. Indeed, although I consider that Ter-Petrossian was counting on such clashes but for the security forces to back down, I consider the main reasons in chronological order are the following.

    i) dispersal of rally (apparently on the decision of lower ranking officials i.e. not Kocharian and Sargsyan if western journalist sources are correct.

    ii) regrouping of radical opposition at French Embassy and barricading themselves in rather than moving to Matenadaran.

    iii) uncalled for, inappropriate and untimely use of military when they didn’t even attempt to use water cannon.

    Back to Baghdasarian, after all the abuse Ter-Petrossian directed at him, what did you expect? Besides, he’s a politician and all are ambitious and self-serving. It is, however, his right although one supposes a decision should have been made by Orinats Yerkir and not him on his own. Still, I do not consider that his decision directly contributed to the clashes.

    Indeed, we always knew the clashes were going to occur for several months now. All it needed was the spark, and that was the moving in on Liberty Square to check for weapons and it turning into an amateurish dispersal by an inadequate police.

  14. Sure, and I’m kind of viewing him as a young Geghamian in terms of his pre-election campaign sensationalism rhetoric — the likely bogus death threat really springs to mind. I also find it especially ironic that he entered parliament for HHSh in 1995 and was involved in covering up the falsifications in 1996 presidential election that secured his old master a second term in office. Now he’s again thinking of his personal political ambitions and siding with who he perceives to be strongest this time. Still, even so, when we’re considering what happened on 1 March I think we need an objective, independent (and preferably external) inquiry into what happened.

    As I’ve said, that they didn’t exhaust all other means first — namely riot police, tear gas, water cannon etc — needs to be addressed. The use of the military and live ammunition is specifically one of great concern and whoever was shooting directly at protesters need to be identified and prosecuted. Same goes for any violence from the other side too, but again, we need an objective and independent assessment and not one based on personal dislikes or political affiliations.

  15. Agree with Observer,
    Whatever Onik cited above regarding Baghdassarian’s glorious career path, just let me think of a person without any principles or moral philosophy. I don’t think that it is possible to rely on a person like that. And i think Serj used him to cover his short-term needs, then he can throw him away.
    A small note: “Levon spreads hate”looks like a new mantra. If somebody will take time and do an occurency analysis, it will be on top. Looks to me it is created by a grand-master of armenian NLP Aghvan Vardanian, who at last opens our eyes on the practices LTP used.

  16. Mathisking,
    1/ Whoever is a Levon supporter he/she is a traitor to Armenia.
    2/ Get your names straight: Aghvan HOVSEPYAN is the name of the General Prosecutor.
    Aghvan Vardanyan is the ARF-Dashnak minister for Social Affairs.

  17. Raffi Hovannisyan could have been a good PM before he teamed up with Levon. Raffi Hovhannisyan will run in 2013, but he will lose exactly for the same reason. He should have been, simply put, neutral in this election.

    Again, I think the PM will be Tigran Sargsyan, although a great great choice would be Armen Rustamian.

    Repeating the elections? God Forbid. It would set a terrible precedents for the future when candidates would think that if they cause violence after the elections they are guaranteed a repeat.

  18. Hayrenaser, sorry for Aghavan Hovsepyan :). And i dont think that anybody who supports LTP or whomever he is a traitor. Labeling people for their opinion brings us to 1937. Now to me looks that instead of 10 years back with LTP we are back for another 70 years with Serje. And analyzing back I can see that, they were so unprofessional that LTP who has so negative history was able to come and join this much people. They dont know what is competition in a proper way. They never compete, cause they monopolize everything, and they were not ready to listen anything else. How i can expect them to compete in global world, with their narrow minds. They had 10 years to grow professionally, and what we had now?
    I agree with Observer that probably best thing they can do is to step down and recall elections.

  19. Hayrenaser, sorry for Hovsepian. Labeling people for for their opinion doesnt look a proper practice, it takes us back to 1937. Seems that instead of going back for 10 years with LTP, we’re back now for 70. Whatever we face today is an absurd. What a mental ability should have current regime if a person with such a negative background can come and unite a big number of people? The answer is primitive. They never face a competition. They build monopolies. But monopolies never compete, and never produce any viable product, in general mean. How can we expect them to compete in global if they are so narrow minded? They had 10 years to grow professionally, and what we see today is a brutal force.

  20. Mathisking,

    Amen chariq-i mech barik.

    I am sad for the protests and destruction.
    I am sad for the loss of life.
    I am sad that the majority of them were with Levon because of injustice.
    I am sad for our hatred and division.

    I am happy though that Serge and co understood that this CANNOT go on. Injustice cannot go on, corruption cannot go on. And I have a very good feeling that because of this tough WAKE UP CALL he will get his act together. If I wasn’t confident I would not support him (even though I DID NOT vote for him).

    But if Levon had actually succeeded, then there would not be an Armenia to improve. Armenia would become a “prostitute” country under Levon. He promised an army of less than 10,000 after all

  21. guys, I guess some of you haven’t really been following the Armenian politics,
    so you probably don’t know that less than a year ago it was R. Kotcharyan who said
    “Artur Baghdasaryan is a traitor, and the one who betrayed once will continue betraying”. The reason was that a pro-government paper leaked a secret tape (actually illegal), which contained Artur’s conversation with British embassy worker, accusing Kocharyan and Serzh of planning election fraud.
    2nd thing – Artur’s rhetoric was very much similar to Levon, he accused current government of all the possible sins, and he hinted that the government was planning to kill him. so what he is doing now would be similar to
    Obama joining George W. Bush, but still it wouldn’t be that bad, because at least Bush has never said that Obama works for Al-Qaida

    And after that you are trying to convince someone that Artur is a serious political force?

  22. vart, I am not trying to convince anyone of Artur’s credibility. But hundred’s of thousands evidently supported him in the elections. I simply don’t find it all that strange that he took a job in the incoming administration. Happens all the time in politics. And your analogy is terrible. This is not about Bin Laden or anything like that. Normal politics, in any normal country. Once the election-season rhetoric dies down, people from all sides cool off, take jobs, and get to work.

    I think AB is being vilified by LTP now (as well as during the election season) as a perfect example in the LTP mantra “whoever is not with us is against us.” This was not about elections for LTP. It was about dividing the nation. Mission accomplished. Artur Baghdasaryan never fit into that destructive equation for LTP. And now he speaks of “the horror, the horror.” In fact, any sober individual should be horrified that LTP accepts the Jahangiryans, Manvel, the MFA sleaze that can consume state $ for a decade and only today wake up and walk away from the state…these are examples of treason, at least treason of principle. Only the King Cynic Levon could encourage and embrace this without blinking an eye.

  23. AH
    1. First of all Armenia is not a “normal” country with “normal” politics.
    AB was publicly accused by the president of “treason” and “cooperation with foreign secret services”, which I believe is the worst crime under every law in every country.
    And a year later the same guy, who was not cleared of these accusations by anyone, becomes the sceretary of national security council
    2. Have you heard any of the pre-election speeches by AB? His rhetoric was absoultely no different from that of LTP. have you done research with people who have voted for AB? I strongly doubt that most of them will ever consider voting for him again, at least in 10 years (as LTP example shows no one knows what will happen in 10 years)
    3. the people you are referring to as MFA sleaze – people like Ruben Shugaryan, the 1st Arm. ambassador to US, are actually among the best and most discent Armenian diplomats, who could have earned much more money, have they emigrated long time ago. They stayed in MFA, cause the felt they were doing that for their country, but when MFA became so involved in the internal politics, they left.
    Another person to leave the gov-t was Hranush Kharatyan, a very respected and well-known figure in Armenia, by no means an LTP supporter.

  24. in short:

    1) all true, and no different from the people around him, gov’t and opposition included. But go ahead and make the moral case for LTP. The chorus of laughter will be deafening.

    2) Wrong. AB did not say “whoever is not with me is against me.” He did not hate-monger with racist drivel against his fellow Armenians. He did not call for policemen to stop serving the state. Sorry, vart but re-writing history doesn’t fly with me. And I could care less what his electorate thinks. You don’t conduct elections every 2 months to see how your supporters grow or shrink. Thankfully all of these major players has a track record and we can all make our own judgments on how credible we should expect them to be.

    3) Defending the actions of the MFA bandwagon guests is pitiful. Ruben arriving in Washington, the latest of the gravy-train HHSh who were prepped in their proper tea-time English without a clue about democracy. Now he is free to emigrate, like so many of the “diplomats”…after taking state funds to protect the interests of the state and serve the President. You can like him or hate the president, but to me it is unconscionable to take take take state funds for a DECADE under an administration that by your own arguments hasn’t changed (always been that way) and suddenly declare that it is a criminal state. These are not diplomats. These are self interested petty lackeys. Nothing bad to say about Ms. Kharatyan. Sleaze = Jahangiryan, Aram Sargsyan, Manvel, MFA riffraff … sad that the list of luminaries is so long.

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