Serj Tankian, the world-famous U.S. rock musician of Armenian descent, has challenged the legitimacy of Serzh Sarkisian’s victory in last week’s presidential election and accused Armenia’s president of tolerating corruption and other government abuses.
“Based on the overwhelming reported fraud from many NGOs, irrespective of the OSCE report, it seems like it would be scientifically impossible for even you, Mr. President, to know whether you actually won the majority of votes,” Tankian said in a scathing open letter to Sarkisian circulated on Tuesday.
“That's quite funny isn't it?” he wrote. “That you, the President of Armenia are not really sure, deep inside, whether you are the true chosen leader of your people or not.
“That would really bother me personally. If I wanted to lead my people, I would really want them to make that decision for themselves, because I respect my people and that is their decision to make.
“Otherwise, I would take over Armenia and call myself the Governor General of Armenia or Dictator du jour or whatever moniker I felt like sporting that day. Maybe your party is out of control and the oligarchs are running out of caviar or something and they want to make sure that the flow of the good times doesn't stop.”
“Like most diasporan Armenians, I have always been reluctant to criticize your government directly and publicly,” continued the lead singer of the California-based rock band System of a Down. “But the avalanche of people suffering under your rule due to corruption and injustice is tipping the scale for us all.”
Tankian also urged Sarkisian to initiate sweeping changes in the country that would genuinely address popular discontent with his rule. That, he said, includes punishing “those who steal elections from my people” and bolstering the rule of law in Armenia. “You should also consider dissolving Parliament and being the first Armenian reformist President who goes out of his way to make sure that future elections are fair and representational,” he said.
Sarkisian was unusually to quick to respond to the embarrassing verbal attack picked up by the Armenian media and actively discussed on online social networks. In his written reply made public later on Tuesday, he insisted that he is the rightful winner of the “best elections in the 21-year-long history of our country.” Reported irregularities “could not have had any significant impact on the outcome of the vote,” he said.
“I have always been sure in whatever I have done, be that battle command or organization of elections … Armenia spoke up, Serj, believe me,” said Sarkisian.
The president also said that attempts to call into question the official vote results could ultimately “lead us to inevitable self-destruction.” “The agenda of establishing law and order cannot be implemented by illegal means,” he added.
Tankian, 45, already called for boosting the rule of law and combating corruption in Armenia when he last visited his ancestral homeland in August 2011. Speaking after a solo concert in Yerevan, he also criticized a controversial mining project strongly opposed by local environment protection groups.
Tankian met Sarkisian ahead of the open-air concert attended by some 10,000 fans. The outspoken singer also received a medal of honor from Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian at the time.