Commentary: Realignment of Political Forces in Armenia


By Edmond Y. Azadian


Next year Armenia will face its most critical challenge in recent years as it prepares to hold parliamentary elections. During the last elections, coalitions were formed that ruled the country harmoniously for a while, because the interests of the groups constituting that coalition converged. Gradually, fissures appeared in the coalition and one of them defected, namely the ARF (Dashnaktsoutioun), becoming an opposition party, nominally, while in truth exploiting opportunities.

The three other parties in power remained in tandem for a while, but discord and dissonance also plagued their relations. The partners in the ruling coalition were the Republican party, headed by President Serge Sargisian; Prosperous Armenia, headed by oligarch Gagik Zaroukian, actually manipulated, behind the scenes by the former President Robert Kocharian, and the third, Orinants Yerkir (the country of laws), headed by Arthur Bagdasarian. This party was cut to size when its leader announced his candidacy during the last presidential election. Some defections from the party ranks in the parliament, most probably engineered by the administration, dwindled the clout and the size of Orinants Yerkir, whose salvation from complete collapse rested upon Bagdasarian’s personal success at the cost of switching sides. He ran as an opposition candidate and he traded his election results with a post in the government. (He became the secretary of state security.)

The ARF left the ruling coalition, but did not join former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s HAK coalition, which is the real opposition.

At this time, the Dashnak leadership is dreaming about the comeback of their benefactor, Robert Kocharian, who, during his rule, released the ARF leaders from jail and rehabilitated them to become a force to be reckoned with. Now, the Dashak leadership believes that it is in the role of a king-maker who can engineer Kocharian’s comeback with the help of former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.

This scenario is played against the background of some frictions that came out into the open between the Republican and Prosperous Armenia parties.

Diasporan parties are looked upon with suspicion in Armenia. The ARF myth during the Soviet era turned out to be just that, a myth, which the population in Armenia refused to embrace.

The Social Democratic Hunchak Party is torn apart with internal division, most probably courtesy of the current administration.

The diasporan parties have their own internal divisions and fault lines, which successive administrations have exploited skillfully to weaken or to destroy them. Ter-Petrosian effectively destroyed the ARF during his administration. But the party was revived through his successor’s strong-arm tactics.

Ter-Petrosian’s ploys were more effective in the division of the ADL, which is still struggling to restore its internal unity. As minister of the interior at that time, Serge Sargisian contributed indirectly to that fragmentation to his belated regret.

The ADL splintered and some rogue groups, claiming legitimacy, turned out to be accessories to the Dashnag machinations in Armenia and the diaspora. In the process, HRAK (ADL-Armenia) was wiped off the political map in Armenia, failing to participate in any election during the last seven years.

Finally, last year the traditional ADL leadership in the diaspora and Armenia joined forces to revive this democratic organization by forming the Armenakan-ADL party in Armenia, to which joined all the healthy segments of the Diaspora ADL, through the formation of the ADL World Council.

On July 17, the Armenakan-ADL Party held its second convention in Armenia. On this occasion the president of the party, Hagop Avedikian, gave an interview to the Azgdaily newspaper, outlining the internal developments of the party, which has its chapters all over Armenia, except for Capan and Goris, where new cells will be forming soon. (Avedikian is the founding editor of Azg.)

Avedikian made an insightful analysis of the political life in Armenia. He sees an important role for Armenakan-ADL as a moderate force in an atmosphere of extreme polarization. The atmosphere of political antagonism is so stark that the opposition and the administration have been exploiting most crucial issues to their own political advantage, such as, Armenian-Turkish relations, the Karabagh conflict, social problems, etc. It is said that 90 percent of the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 40 families, while the rest of the people suffer in dire need. Emigration is hemorrhaging the demographic profile of the country.

In this kind of atmosphere, when people look for jobs and economic opportunities, no ideology can appeal to them. Oligarchs are ruling the country and most of them have been elected to the parliament so as to gain immunity and even more influence. The Armenakan-ADL Party does not enjoy the support of any oligarch and that is a blessing in disguise, because it can pursue a more principled policy fighting for justice and economic improvement for the nation.

Thus far the party leadership has issued in-depth analyses on economic and political issues, criticizing both the administration and the opposition. High on the agenda is the improvement of the plight of the people, which will lead the party to pursue true justice and stability in the country. True democracy is yet to come. Poor people can be influenced and bought by the highest bidder who do not always work for the welfare of the same people.

Because there are no oligarchs in the rank of the Armenakan-ADL Party, it cannot, on its own, win any seat in the parliament, which is the forum for all positive actions. At this time, the party is looking to join a coalition in the upcoming election. The Armenakans have strong support throughout the ADL structures in the world. The Diaspora ADL derives its inspiration and strength from the Armenakans,whose roots extend all theway to 1885. On the other hand, Armenakans have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy the support of the Diaspora ADL groups to achieve their goal and to become a political force in Armenia to be reckoned with.