Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has praised the Armenian government’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus and condemned “fierce” attacks launched against it by hardline opposition forces.
Some political allies of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian were unimpressed by the show of support, however, saying that Ter-Petrosian also seemingly proposed a dubious deal between Armenia’s current government and previous leadership overthrown in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.”
In an article posted on Ilur.am late on Tuesday, Ter-Petrosian said the coronavirus pandemic has left Armenia in a “warlike situation” fraught with potentially catastrophic consequences for its population. He insisted that for all their “mistakes and shortcomings” the current authorities have been takin necessary steps to deal with the unprecedented health crisis.
“But just as the authorities are working hard practically around the clock a huge army of unappreciated geniuses, provocateurs and ill-wishers has opened a second front against them through countless media outlets and hundreds of fake [social media users] controlled by known forces,” he wrote.
Ter-Petrosian, who ruled Armenia from 1991-1998, pointed the finger at Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian, two other former presidents who have been prosecuted by the current authorities. He said media outlets controlled by them should stop their “fierce struggle against the authorities.”
Some of Sarkisian’s aides were quick to scoff at the appeal. They said that Ter-Petrosian glossed over what they describe as the Pashinian government’s political persecution of his fellow ex-presidents.
Pashinian did not react to the latest statement by his former political mentor. One of his close associates, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, said on Wednesday that he “understands” the concerns voiced by Ter-Petrosian.
“President Ter-Petrosian knows what it means to govern the country during times of crisis,” Simonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
But another senior pro-government lawmaker, Andranik Kocharian, criticized Ter-Petrosian’s call for a halt to an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the April 2016 hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinian initiated the inquiry last year with the stated aim of assessing the Sarkisian administration’s preparedness for the four-day fighting which nearly escalated into an all-out Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The probe is conducted by an ad hoc commission of the Armenian parliament headed by Andranik Kocharian.
Kocharian (no relation to Robert) noted that Ter-Petrosian’s article came just hours after Serzh Sarkisian agreed in principle to testify before the commission. He suggested that Ter-Petrosian might be trying to prevent Sarkisian from shedding more light on a surprise meeting held by the two ex-presidents later in April 2016.
“A deal seems to be proposed: do not investigate the events of April 2016 and in return for that Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian will tell their media to sober up and stop saying bad things about the authorities,” said the influential Pashinian ally.
In his article, Ter-Petrosian said that a freeze on the parliamentary commission’s activities would help to ease political tensions in the country.
Pashinian played a prominent role in Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement that nearly brought the latter back to power after a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. The former journalist spent about two years in prison as a result of a post-election government crackdown on the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition.
Pashinian fell out with Ter-Petrosian after being released from prison in 2011. Nevertheless, Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) party welcomed the Pashinian-led mass protests that led to Sarkisian’s resignation in April 2018.