By Emil Danielyan and Ruzanna Stepanian
President Serzh Sarkisian claimed to have achieved an “important turnaround” in the Armenian government’s attitudes towards ordinary citizens and pledged to prove skeptics wrong as he marked his first 100 days in power on Friday.
In a written address to the nation issued on the occasion, Sarkisian said his three-month presidency has resulted in greater government attention to “the citizens of Armenia, their problems and hopes, their welfare, and their vision for building our newly independent country.”
“I have begun implementing my [pre-election] platform, which was approved by many of you and which contains solutions to concrete and important problems. The past hundred days have shown that some of them have been implemented more quickly than we thought, while others require more time,” he said without elaborating.
“I am not telling you to be patient,” added Sarkisian. “Believe me, I am not patient either, and I want to see solutions to our problems such as corruption and indifference and positive results in the fight against corruption and poverty as soon as possible.”
Sarkisian complained that “some people” are highly skeptical about his pledges to combat corruption, strengthen the rule of law and raise living standards. “I am going to reverse their pessimism with consistent work,” he said.
Sarkisian’s prime minister, Tigran Sarkisian, (no relation) has been particularly vocal in publicly stressing the need to address these problems. He has described government corruption as “the number one problem facing Armenia and has initiated an overhaul of the country’s tax and customs services as part of an anti-graft campaign announced by his government.
Armenia’s leading opposition groups have dismissed these steps as a gimmick, saying that President Sarkisian has so far followed in the footsteps of his controversial predecessor Robert Kocharian. They stress the fact that most of more than 100 opposition members and supporters arrested in the wake of last February’s disputed presidential election remain in jail.
“During these 100 days they have failed to overcome the crisis caused by the events of March 1 and the presidential elections, to tell the public what happened on March 1 and who ordered the shootings,” said Stepan Safarian of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “Nor have they released the innocent people.”
“If things continue like this, if the quality of governance doesn’t change … there will be a new upsurge in tensions and public demands for pre-term elections,” he warned.
The country’s main opposition alliance led by former President Ter-Petrosian plans to make a detailed assessment of Sarkisian’s 100 days in power at a rally scheduled for August 1. Ter-Petrosian has warned that Sarkisian will face a renewed campaign of opposition protests if he fails to free all “political prisoners” by then. He has also demanded that the authorities prosecute Kocharian and other officials who he believes are responsible for the March 1 break-up of his post-election protests that left at least ten people dead.
Predictably, Armenia’s leading pro-government forces are far more satisfied with Sarkisian’s track record. Parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, who is a senior member of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), argued on Friday that 100 days is not enough time for achieving “radical changes.”
A leading member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a junior partner in Sarkisian’s governing coalition, agreed. “He has rekindled hopes,” Armen Rustamian told RFE/RL. “There are signs of a political will.”
“More time is needed for seeing its results,” Rustamian said. “Naturally, the results achieved so far do not satisfy us because a lot remains to be done.”
(Photolur photo: Sarkisian pictured during his April 9 inauguration.)