Setting the rules of the “political chess”

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian meets with Armenias top security officials, prosecutors and judges, 20Apr2011

If anyone had any doubts, that there’s an agreement between President Serzh Sargsian and opposition leader, First President Levon Ter-Petrossian, those doubts ought to be gone by now.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsian called for a “shake up and pronounced activation” in investigations of March 1-2, 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan which led to the death of 10 people.

The announcement comes 3 years too late of course. But the timing is just perfect if Sargsian wanted to indicate, that he is fulfilling opposition demands.

On April 8th rally organized by Armenian National Congress (HAK), the opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian laid out three demands, which he said the authorities should fulfil before the next HAK rally scheduled for April 28th (one week from now).

HAK leader Ter-Petrossian said Sargsian administration must free “all political prisoners,” agree to an objective inquiry into the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan and guarantee opposition access to Liberty Square.

So much for the 3 demands

Armenia -- Levon Ter-Petrossian greets supporters at an opposition rally in Liberty Square, Yerevan, 08Apr2011

A senior member of Sargsian’s Republican party argued in a recent interview, that the authorities had allowed opposition rallies to take place in the Liberty Square and that all the jailed opposition figures would soon be released (the key figures being Nikol Pashinian and Sasun Mikayelian). So the authorities are set on a firm path to fulfill all key demands.

And yesterday’s announcement seemed designed to let Ter-Petrossian save his face at the next rally and say Sargsian is giving way to pressure, while in reality, Sargsian hasn’t done anything yet, just words.

Political chess

So what’s really happening? We know the name of the game is “political chess,” as that’s what Ter-Petrossian called it in his March 17 speech at the Liberty Square.

The language and actions of both the opposition and the authorities were quite antagonistic over the past 3 years. This was a time of demonstrating power, above everything.

Serzh Sargsian finally and fully consolidated his power by signing of a new coalition agreement between three ruling parties, back in February.

Levon Ter-Petrossian staged several massive rallies, where he demonstrated clearly that his Armenian National Congress is  the single most polarizing force in the opposition. The former president also softened his stance and criticism of the authorities, thus making HAK more appealing also to the less radically-minded political masses. This was done so effectively, that it left ARF Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun (Heritage) wondering if they will even make it to the next Armenian parliament.

Now, that the players are well defined and the rules of the game are clear, I’m almost sure we will have Sargsian’s coalition government and Ter-Petrossian’s Congress as his main opposition in parliament for the next 5 years.

What’s in it for us?

Serzh_Levon

Sargsian and Ter-Petrossian have a lot in common when it comes to their policies.

a) They both support resolution of Karabakh issue by ceding the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. This was an issue where Sargsian faced strong opposition from both Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun.

b) Sargsian and Ter-Petrossian are both very open for dialogue and normalizing relations with Turkey, while these are issues where again Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun became very inconvenient being very vocal in Parliament.

c) Both incumbent and former Presidents stand for highly libertarian policies, unlike Dashnaktsutyun’s socialism and Zharangutyun’s smudged populism.

Hence, if this game concludes successfully and Ter-Petrossian’s HAK emerges as the main parliamentary opposition, while Sargsyan’s coalition keeps its massive majority, I see greater possibilities for the resolution of Karabakh conflict during incumbent president’s next term in office, final normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations and continuation of current economic reforms.

A Ter-Petrossian opposition will be especially helpful to Sargsian in battling the olygarchs, whom he has tried to control and fight with little success during his past 3 years. HAK’s highly critical attitude towards the oligarchs, while it pursues the same economic policies as those of the ruling coalition, will become Sargsian’s main justification for toning down the oligarchs and making sure his reforms don’t just stay on paper.

PS: These are all my private speculations. But if there’s a grain of truth in it, I will gladly welcome the shaping up of a strong and constructive opposition in parliament, which will help the government tackle the three major issues (a, b, c) laid out above. And that’s where we have a lot to gain as a country (although I have my reservations on handing over liberated territories to reach Karabakh agreement).

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8 thoughts on “Setting the rules of the “political chess”

  1. What a rosy outlook.

    The fact remains that you have an authoritarian governance system, a corrupt and uncompetitive economic structure and a looming demographic catastrophe.

  2. Pingback: “Political Chess” Becomes Political Ping-Pong | The Armenian Observer Blog

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