Kocharian again blamed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh and said Armenians will become a “nation of losers” if the latter holds on to power as a result of fresh parliamentary elections slated for next month.
Kocharian, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the newly established Resurgent Armenia party formally created the alliance called Armenia with a joint declaration signed in the presence of journalists. They effectively kicked off their election campaign at an ensuing rally held in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
“We are now a country which cannot protect its borders and ensure the security of its population on its own,” Kocharian told the crowd that gathered there. “We have a government that has consistently weakened the army and is now doing nothing to rebuild it.”
“Our aim is to establish dignified peace. That cannot be done by a government that embodies defeat, disgrace, humiliation and deaths. But we can do that,” he said in a speech repeatedly interrupted by “Kocharian!” chants.
Kocharian said the Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in November also left Karabakh facing a “quite murky” future. He argued that the agreement allows Azerbaijan to demand in 2025 the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping troops deployed in the Armenian-populated territory.
“That infamous agreement of November 9 means that in four and a half years from now Azerbaijan can renounce the Russian peacekeeping troops,” he said. “Has any of you heard from the current rulers what they are doing in that direction? Are they prepared for such a scenario or not? A government symbolizing defeat cannot be an effective negotiator.”
The Karabakh-born ex-president went on to launch a scathing attack on Pashinian, portraying him as an incompetent and clueless leader. “In April 2018, our people brought to power someone who does not know what statehood is and how the state machine works and is managed,” he said.
Kocharian, 66, has been at loggerheads with Pashinian’s government ever since it took office in May 2018. He was first arrested in July 2018 on coup charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. He was twice freed and twice rearrested before Armenia’s Court of Appeals released him on bail in June 2020.
A court of first instance threw out the coup charges, rejected by Kocharian as politically motivated, last month after the country’s Constitutional Court declared them unconstitutional.
The ex-president opposition allies are also highly critical of the current government. Dashnaktsutyun has been one of the main organizers of recent months’ opposition protests aimed at forcing Pashinian to resign. It was allied to Kocharian when he ruled the country from 1998-2008.
“This election is about having or not having a state,” Ishkhan Saghatelian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, said after signing the joint declaration with Kocharian and Resurgent Armenia.
Resurgent Armenia was set up recently by local government officials and other well-known residents of southeastern Syunik province which has been facing serious security challengers as a result of the Karabakh war.
Kocharian said last month that the upcoming snap polls will be a two-horse race between Pashinian’s Civil Contract party and the political force led by him.
Speaking to journalists before Sunday’s rally, he defended his decision not to enter a more broad-based opposition alliance proposed by Levon Ter-Petrosian, another former president and his longtime foe.
Ter-Petrosian first floated the idea at a March 25 meeting with Kocharian and former President Serzh Sarkisian. The latter also turned it down.
Kocharian insisted that the three ex-presidents can work together in trying to unseat Pashinian even without forming a single political alliance. “The formation or non-formation of an alliance is just one of the techniques of that struggle,” he said.