By Hrach Melkumian
Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian accused the opposition on Friday of risking a military aggression against Armenia by portraying its government as weak and illegitimate.
Sarkisian said “unfriendly states,” presumably Azerbaijan in the first instance, are unaware of the political situation in Armenia and therefore take seriously regular opposition predictions about President Robert Kocharian’s imminent downfall.
“We pay a lot of attention to all those people who are trying to blacken everything. Why am I saying this? Because this is a very significant circumstance,” he told a round-table discussion of national security issues in Yerevan.
“The temptation [among Armenia’s foes] is growing so much that they think they can solve issues tomorrow with the force of weapons. You see, a temptation is a very bad thing,” he added, apparently referring to Azerbaijani threats to win back Nagorno-Karabakh by force.
The Armenian opposition, which does not accept the legitimacy of Kocharian’s disputed reelection last year, tried unsuccessfully to force him into resignation as recently as last spring. Some opposition leaders now appear buoyed by the success of anti-government street protests in Ukraine that are expected to lead to regime change. They are reportedly regrouping for a fresh push for power.
A leading Azerbaijani newspaper claimed in a front-page article this week that Armenia will likely become the next former Soviet republic to have regime change as a result of a Western-backed “revolution.”
Sarkisian, who is widely regarded as the country’s second most powerful man after Kocharian, also brushed aside the opposition’s pro-democracy rhetoric, saying that the Armenian authorities are committed to free elections and human rights. Democracy is vital for national security, he added.
“We must definitely hold the best elections. We must definitely have the most sophisticated society. We must be the most democratic and humane country because the armies of such countries enjoy popular love and respect. Such countries also have other powerful security guarantees.”
Opposition leaders have repeatedly accused Sarkisian of being one of the chief architects of serious fraud reported during last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. The defense chief was Kocharian’s campaign manager at the time, a role which one Western diplomat described as “at best questionable.”