A pro-government lawmaker has dismissed as cynical the remarks by former President Serzh Sarkisian, who implied during his recent meeting with a U.S. envoy that Armenia lacks real democracy.
In an apparent jab at the current government, Sarkisian said while meeting with U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy on Tuesday that “true democratization has no alternative in Armenia.”
The former leader ousted by a popular anti-government movement in 2018 added: “True democracy is the answer to populism that has become a serious challenge for many states around the world.”
In reporting the remarks the former president’s office said the meeting during which Sarkisian also presented his vision of the domestic political situation in Armenia had been initiated by the U.S. diplomat.
Despite keeping a low profile since his resignation, Sarkisian remains the leader of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that is not represented in the current parliament.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), Hakob Simidian, secretary of the My Step parliamentary faction, described Sarkisian’s first meeting with the U.S. ambassador since his resignation as a usual “political process.”
“Ambassadors hold meetings with leaders of different political parties, and I don’t think there is anything particularly significant about this one,” he said.
The lawmaker, however, responded to Sarkisian’s thinly veiled criticism regarding the current government’s democratic credentials.
“There is a true democracy in Armenia now. This is testified by assessments of international organizations regarding the latest parliamentary elections. Today we have a true democracy. We had populism in the past. I don’t want to sound rude, but any evaluation of today’s democracy as populism looks a bit like cynicism, especially when it comes from persons who had held leadership positions for decades and under whom we never had in Armenia the democracy that we have today, not even close. What we had was a political group clinging to power through repressions,” Simidian said.
Sarkisian, 65, served two consecutive five-year terms as Armenia’s president in 2008-2018. His attempt to extend his rule by becoming a prime minister vested with broader powers due to an amended constitution sparked nationwide protests led by then opposition leader Nikol Pashinian. The protests known as the “Velvet Revolution” forced Sarkisian to resign on April 23, 2018.