By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian lashed out at Western powers on Tuesday for their perceived leniency towards the Armenian government, saying that they are abetting its growing authoritarian tendencies to gain greater leverage against Armenia.
“I am developing a conviction that the West is not interested in having a legitimate and strong government in Armenia,” charged Ter-Petrosian. “The weaker, the more vulnerable, the more Asian, the more undemocratic [that government is,] the better for them.
“The Armenian authorities are thereby becoming submissive and meek tools that are constantly in [the West’s] debt and ready to do anything they are told to in return for the recognition of their legitimacy. Anything they are told to, including on the Karabakh issue, Turkish-Armenian relations, the fight against international terrorism and so on.”
“They are simply depriving Armenia of its right to make decisions on its own,” he added.
Ter-Petrosian had claimed earlier that with their initial, largely positive, assessment of the conduct of the February 19 presidential election Western election monitors effectively gave Armenian authorities the blank check to use lethal force against his supporters protesting against official vote results. At least ten people were killed and more than 100 others injured as security forces put an end to the post-election street protests in Yerevan on March 1.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe subsequently revised that assessment, reporting serious irregularities during the counting and recounting of ballots in its final election report. The United States has been even more critical of the disputed vote and now considers it “significantly flawed.”
Ter-Petrosian was on Tuesday particularly scathing about the Council of Europe’s unwillingness to censure the Armenian authorities for their failure to end their post-election crackdown on the opposition.
In an April resolution, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) demanded the urgent release of all Ter-Petrosian supporters arrested on “seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges,” the scrapping of serious restrictions on freedom of assembly and the launch of an independent inquiry into the March 1 clashes. It warned that failure to take these measures by late June could lead to the suspension of the voting rights of its four Armenian members.
The 47-nation assembly said last week that Yerevan has failed to fully comply with the resolution. Nonetheless, it decided not to sanction the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian, extending the deadline for meeting the PACE demands until next January.
Speaking at a news conference, Ter-Petrosian denounced this approach and branded the two main authors of the PACE’s follow-up resolution, John Prescott and Georges Colombier, as “defense lawyers” of the Sarkisian administration. “Had they been principled, they would have imposed sanctions and stripped Armenia of voting rights back in April and there would not have been a single political prisoner today,” he said.
As well as demanding an end to the government crackdown, the latest PACE resolution calls on the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition to send a representative to ad hoc commission of the Armenian parliament tasked with investigating the March 1 unrest. It at the same time expresses misgivings about the “impartiality and independence” of a body dominated by pro-government lawmakers.
“They are saying that they can’t trust this commission, that it can’t hold an independent inquiry, that its composition fully mirrors that of the governing coalition, but are still urging the opposition to participate in its work,” scoffed Ter-Petrosian. “What is this? This is a ridicule.”