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Outgoing Minister Warns Of Further Turmoil In Armenia


Armenia - Otugoing Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian holds a news conference in Yerevan, 9 May 2018.

The massive protests that brought down Armenia’s government were not a democratic revolution and they could spell more trouble for the country, outgoing Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian said on Wednesday.

“I don’t consider what happened to be a revolution because revolution means a change of the state-legal order,” Sargsian told a farewell news conference in Yerevan. “What happened in our country was a change of government: the representative of one parliamentary faction replaced the representative of another as prime minister.”

“What we have now is an incomprehensible model in the legal sense,” he said. “We have a parliamentary majority and a prime minister representing the parliamentary minority, which is fraught with many dangers.

“What does such a settlement mean? It means that every time a decision by the majority does not play into the hands of the minority prime minister and government they will get people to take to the streets and put pressure on parliament deputies so that they vote against their will. This is anything but democracy.”

“This method is fraught with many dangers because there will always be someone who could rally more people in the streets in a different situation and different times,” added the minister who tendered his resignation hours after the Armenian parliament elected the protest leader, Nikol Pashinian, as the country’s prime minister on Tuesday.

Armenia - Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian visits a military base in northern Armenia, 15 March 2018.
Armenia - Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian visits a military base in northern Armenia, 15 March 2018.

The previous prime minister, former President Serzh Sarkisian, stepped down on April 23 after ten days of Pashinian-led protests against his decision to extend his decade-long rule. Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) reluctantly agreed to his coming to power under pressure from tens of thousands of protesters who brought Armenia to a standstill on May 1.

The opposition Yelk alliance, of which Pashinian is a leading member, has only 9 seats in the 105-member National Assembly. The new premier is also backed by businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which hold another 38 seats between them.

Pashinian reaffirmed on Tuesday his intention to push for fresh parliamentary elections. But he avoided mentioning possible dates for holding them.

Sargsian said the conduct of snap polls will require “mutual understanding among all political actors.”

Sargsian also said that he will remain in “the political field” after leaving office. He did not clarify, though, whether he will be actively involved in the HHK’s activities. The 42-year-old topped the HHK’s list of candidates in the April 2017 parliamentary elections won by the party.

Sargsian worked as chief of the presidential staff before being appointed as defense minister in October 2016. He was widely regarded as Serzh Sarkisian’s potential successor until the dramatic regime change in Yerevan.

Sargsian defended his track record when he announced his resignation following a meeting with Pashinian held late on Tuesday. “I am proud of handing over a more efficient and combat-ready army to my successor,” he said in a statement.

Sargsian holds a master’s degree from the U.S. Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He taught international relations and public administration at the American University of Armenia from 2001-2011.

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