Armenia needs the kind of radical reforms that were implemented in neighboring Georgia under former President Mikheil Saakashvili, former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said during a campaign rally held by his opposition alliance on Friday.
“I want to compare us to neighboring Georgia,” Ohanian told hundreds of supporters in the central Armenian town of Hrazdan. “It used to be an extremely corrupt country with a weak and quasi-thuggish government and with no economic development plan. Saakashvili implemented drastic and tough reforms and they produced results. Corruption was practically rooted out and the state governance system began to be guided by advanced standards.”
“Armenia also needs drastic and tough reforms,” Ohanian said, adding that he is prepared to “lead” them.
A retired army general, Ohanian was sacked in October after serving as defense minister in President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration for more than eight years. He began criticizing the Armenian government shortly afterwards. He teamed up with opposition parties led by former Foreign Ministers Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovannisian in January to run in the April 2 parliamentary elections.
Ohanian said that the Georgian reforms were also followed by the conduct in 2012 of democratic elections in which Saakashvili’s party was defeated by an opposition bloc. He stressed that Saakashvili did not attempt to rig them.
Armenia has had no regime change as a result of elections since 1990. Virtually all presidential and parliamentary elections held in the country have been marred by serious fraud allegations.
One disputed presidential ballot held in 2008 was followed by a deadly government crackdown on opposition demonstrators protesting against its alleged falsification by the outgoing President Robert Kocharian. Oskanian served as foreign minister while Ohanian was the Armenian army’s chief of staff at the time. The latter was tasked with enforcing a state of emergency declared by Kocharian after eight protesters and two security personnel were killed in downtown Yerevan.
Some opposition figures say that Ohanian and Oskanian bear responsibility for the bloodshed. They also say that neither man spoke out against corruption, vote rigging or other abuses of power while in office.