By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian renewed his criticism of the current administration’s domestic and foreign policies, claiming that the “power pyramid” is cracking against the backdrop of growing differences between the current president and his predecessor.
Ter-Petrosian, who spoke before thousands of his supporters during a rally late Monday, also asserted that Turkey’s increasing role in the region jeopardizes a pro-Armenian solution to the longstanding conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Much of Ter-Petrosian’s hour-long speech was devoted to what he sees as ‘contradictions’ in President Serzh Sarkisian’s policies.
He said that while the power under Robert Kocharian’s presidency was ‘monolithic’, it is cracking now under Sarkisian as “redistribution of administrative resources and influences as well as property and wealth” is taking place.
As a bright example of such contradictions, Armenia’s first president cited the ouster of Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosian and his replacement with another senior party figure, Hovik Abrahamian.
“One should not seek politics and state interests in this move,” Ter-Petrosian said, adding that the decision is the result of ‘internal rumbles’.
“Tigran Torosian is not a child of the criminal world and by appointing Hovik Abrahamian they finally criminalize the parliament,” Ter-Petrosian charged.
Ter-Petrosian also highlighted the differences that he said currently exist between Sarkisian and his predecessor Kocharian. He, in particular, claimed that the rumors about Kocharian’s plans to return active politics, in particular to occupy the prime minister’s position, are ‘fed’ from the retired president’s close associates. Ter-Petrosian also asserted that these speculations are directed against Serzh Sarkisian.
“An opinion is being disseminated that Serzh Sarkisian is unable to restrain the popular opposition movement, that he will lose the power soon and that the whole underworld will lose everything. They say Robert Kocharian is the only salvation for these people who own huge riches.”
According to Ter-Petrosian, Serzh Sarkisian realizes that by appointing Kocharian prime minister he will be reduced to the status of an “English Queen”, because, as he said, Kocharian dislikes power-sharing by his nature and essence.
Yet another contradiction, in Ter-Petrosian’s conviction, is the differences between the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and its coalition partners, which, he said, were clearly demonstrated during the recent visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Armenia.
According to Ter-Petrosian, it turns out that Gul is invited to Yerevan, but the ARF, which is part of the government formed by President Sarkisian, opposes this move.
“Either Serzh Sarkisian should expel the ARF from the governing coalition, or he will prove that he is not president also in this sense and is not adequate to the situation reigning in our country today,” Ter-Petrosian charged.
Ter-Petrosian also described the relations between Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh Sarkisian) with his cabinet as ineffective and harmful for the state. Tigran Sarkisian’s function, according to Ter-Petrosian, is limited to creating the illusion for the outside world of “a government led by a professional”. “In reality, the government receives instructions from a totally different direction and first of all from the president himself.”
Ter-Petrosian also chided the government’s economic policies, asserting that monopolists continue to underpay to the public coffers, while the main tax burden is laid on small and medium-sized businesses.
The ex-president also discussed the consequences of the recent regional developments, including the Russian-Georgian war, contending that Armenia has never been so vulnerable to external pressures as it is now.
“It is illegitimate, corrupt and dishonest authorities that are most vulnerable to external pressures, while clean, legitimately elected, honest and fair authorities are able to oppose any kind of external pressure.”
Ter-Petrosian also voiced his concern over Turkey’s endeavors to supplant the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international format of the United States, France and Russia advancing a negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He, in particular, said that Ankara’s offer of assistance in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations is fraught with dangers.
“This, in fact, jeopardizes the Minsk Group format, and the Minsk Group format has been the most correct one, because it provided the balance of superpowers and allowed us to ensure the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is not solved due to unilateral efforts of any of the superpowers,” the first president concluded.