As a title-description for the current situation in Armenia at the beginning of this year may be imposed the news about Armenia’s public debt.
Armenia’s total public debt amounted to $6 404.7 million in late November 2017 after growing 1.7% or by $108 million over one month, the National Statistical Service reports.
We are waiting for NSS’s report for the summary of Armenia’s total public debt for 2017.
The above- mentioned report will continue keeping Armenia on the edge of cliff of default on obligations to service debts with the burden of country’s poverty level which is currently near 30%.
What to Do?
It would be very interesting to be aware of what kind of situation awareness circulated through Armenian Diaspora.
Fr. Bedros Shetilia
n, a clergyman and a musician from USA, has written his opinion about the current situation in Armenia and made a rhetorical question ‘’ What to Do?’’ in
The Armenain Weekly
Fr. Bedros Shetilian- Armenia, Current Situation
“What can we do for Armenia?” is a crucial question. For 26 years, we have discussed and criticized our motherland out of concern. We are all aware that the situation has become desperate, especially in the last few years.
It was an appalling sign, early on, when so-called goghakan (semi-criminal) circles were unembarrassed and unafraid to be visible. Many of these goghakans or people in their families are members of the National Assembly of Armenia (MPs). These kinds of people usually have nicknames similar to bosses in the mafia.
Among these people are, Sashik, probably Armenia’s most hated man—and President Serge Sarkisian’s brother (real name Alexander Sarkisian, also known as the 50/50 man), Lfik Samo (Samvel Alexanyan, who has the monopoly over sugar imports and who also controls the Malatia neighborhood in Yerevan), Shmays (Arakel Movsisian, family originally from Qamishli, Syria), Nemets Rubo (Ruben Hayrapetyan; in Russian, nemets means German), Chiorny (Gagik Tovmasian, the former minister of transportation; chiorny means black in Russian), Tokhmakhi Mher (Mher Setrakyan), Mouk (Hovik Abrahamian, former prime minister; his nickname means mouse), Liska (Souren Kachatryan, the former governor of Syunik region), and others. Among these questionable men is also the well-known Dodi Gago (Gagik Tzaroukyan), who compared with the others is popular because he supports charities and helps people. In addition, I have to mention so-called generals of the armed forces who are corrupt who steal from the people and the army, and they keep people living in fear. The most infamous of these generals is Manuel Grigoryan of Etchmiadzin, who is like a cancer on his city and the surrounding area. I was told by an eyewitness that an individual was beaten cruelly by Gregorian’s bodyguards—just because Grigoryan’s car, inappropriately parked on the street, was scratched by that individual’s car. Grigoryan’s son is the mayor of Etchmiadzin.
The corruption in Armenia has probably never been as bad as it is now even though that phenomena has existed since the Soviet era. One reason for this increase in corruption and disintegration of the political system was the attack on the National Assembly and the killing of Karen Demirjyan and Vazgen Sargsyan on Oct. 27, 1999. After that national tragedy, so that Robert Kocharyan, the President of Armenia at that time, could stay in power, deals were made with the above-mentioned people and groups. As a result, those people became incredibly powerful and out of control. Moreover, Kocharyan, in return for forgiveness of Armenian debt owed to Russia, gave up an important part of Armenia’s energy and other important infrastructure to Russia. That deal created a huge imbalance between Armenia and Russia in Russia’s favor. And those problems have deepened and expanded dramatically during Serge Sarkisian’s presidency.
People over the years have become indifferent to the situation because they feel tired and exhausted. The main purpose of Sasna Tsrer’s actions in the summer of 2016 (the takeover of a police station) was to push the people to rise up. That did not happen, and the numbers that showed up to support the group were not enough to effect any significant change in the country. It seems that the time has passed when people were able to protest on the streets by the hundreds of thousands and achieve change. The situation is so dire that during the last elections, held earlier this year for the National Assembly, there were confirmed reports that a huge numbers of votes were bought for insignificant amounts, at an average of 20,000 drams, which is the equivalent of about $40. In effect, our people in Armenia are “supporting” their government even though it is the government abusing them. In other words, the victim is supporting his victimizer. Such behavior shows how deep and serious the crisis is in our motherland. The consequences could be tragic if we do not change our behavior. We should not blame others for our crisis, but instead, examine our own contributions to the current situation.
I believe that Armenians understand that the situation in Armenia should be our first concern. Here I would like to point out that even if the current government decided to make a change, it is not capable of doing so effectively. The current government is trapped by the situation that it created.
There needs to be real, dramatic change when the new constitution is implemented in April of 2018; otherwise, the consequences could be very negative.
What to Do?
All this brings us to the most important question: What to do. We cannot focus only on what we want or what we dream of; we must also deal with the current situation. Politics is the art of dealing with realities. What can we truly accomplish given the current situation?
I think it must first be acknowledged that any long-lasting internal armed conflict would be fatal for Armenia. Some people do discuss this type of conflict from time to time. However, I will not address this option, since it would be disastrous.
Another option could be the use of peaceful strikes and civil disobedience on the national level to effect change within the regime. But as I noted earlier, that is unlikely given the level of political apathy of the majority of the people in Armenia. However, if something like this were to be organized, it should be used only for a short period of time. Armenia cannot survive any long-lasting instability.
The only option that seems possible is a peaceful transition of power from the current regime to a better one. Taking into consideration all the abovementioned facts and conclusions and the current situation, I see only one possibility for this kind of transfer of power. The current Prime Minister, Karen Karapetyan, should remain in his position after the new constitution is implemented in April 2018. That means he, rather than Serge Sarkisian, should become the head of the executive branch of the government and the state.
Karapetyan is a charismatic and an experienced corporate executive. He is wealthy and a political outsider of the current system. Therefore, he is not dependent on Armenia’s current politicians. He is not beholden to Armenia’s semi-criminal, corrupt, and oligarchic system. His main disadvantage is that he has strong ties with Russia and has had them since before he became Armenia’s prime minister. Most of his life he has worked for the Russian state-controlled gas industry. That, however, raises concerns about Russia’s exerting even more control over Armenia and over Armenian policy toward Artsakh.
There are reliable sources that indicate Russia wants Armenia to give up some of the territories of the buffer zone surrounding Artsakh to Azerbaijan, without receiving any concessions in return. That move would be beneficial for Russia, since it would keep Azerbaijan in Russia’s orbit; such a transfer of territories would also look like a balancing of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and show that Russia can do something for Azerbaijan. Actually, Russia’s Lavrov expressed this same idea indirectly during last year’s Artsakh war. I don’t think, however, that there are big differences between Sarkisian and Karapetyan considering this matter. Sarkisian already looks weak in front of Putin. Anyway, there are some indications that Sarkisian already tried to give up some territories from the buffer zone, but he was stopped from doing so by the people of Artsakh. To prevent any misunderstanding, I would like to emphasize that there is no talk about giving up Artsakh itself. All international parties involved in the negotiations, including Russia, understand that there is no way that Artsakh could be a part of Azerbaijan.
Although Karapetyan’s coming to Armenia was an Armenian initiative, I assume it was done with Russia’s knowledge. Being aware of Russia’s imperialistic approach to Armenia, I realize that Russia does not want for Armenia to become powerful and fully independent. However, I also think that Russia does not want its ally, Armenia, to be very weak.
If we think logically, we might guess that Karapetyan did not come to Armenia just to be a prime minister. Additionally, we might assume that everything was agreed upon with Sarkisian, including Karapetyan’s transition to leader of Armenia. To have this transition happen smoothly and peacefully, Karapetyan needs to get the support of the army and the security apparatuses. Karapetyan might face opposition here from a group of high-ranking officers who are corrupt and have connections with the oligarchs. However, I hope that Sarkisian and his command have already thought about this and made the required arrangements. The support of the army must be guaranteed for Karapetyan. Besides the military support, there is another condition without which a peaceful transition of the power is not possible. Sarkisian and his people and their families must be granted a guarantee of immunity upon their leaving power. Back in the day, in Russia, that’s how Yeltsin transferred power over to Putin.
Recently, there have been some issues raised from parts of both the ruling party and the opposition about Karapetyan’s becoming the leader of Armenia. Usually, these people argue that Sarkisian should remain the leader of the country. For now, it is likely that this type of talk will increase. People who have benefited from the current situation are likely afraid of Karapetyan. They worry about his statements and are concerned about his possible future actions. They are troubled by the likelihood that they will no longer benefit if he becomes leader. For instance, Karapetyan has spoken about ending monopolies in different sectors of the Armenian economy. Many specialists say those monopolies are the main obstacle to improving the economy in Armenia.
Here I would like to express my concern about Serge Sarkisian, who is well known for not keeping his promises and for his chicanery. I very much hope that I am mistaken, and that this is not the case. In the end, I hope that Sarkisian is considering what history might say about him. If he does not go through with the transition of power, the situation in Armenia will worsen, and the level of migration will increase. For these reasons, Armenian-Russian entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan. who is well informed, said Karapetyan is our last hope.
And here, I hope that we will be surprised by the actions of brave, revolutionary patriots who may be able to inspire the people to rise up and to support a quick, beneficial change. I am saying this because our young people’s heroism during last year’s war in Artsakh gives me hope that there is still a healthy element within our nation. It is not a coincidence that the government was confused for a while after that war.
In conclusion, I hope that I was able to describe the current situation in Armenia correctly and was able to answer the question regarding what to do. As a Diaspora, we have to both support and continue pressuring the current government for a peaceful transition of the power in Armenia in April 2018. Only then can we hope for an improvement and for slowing down out-migration, with a vision of creating a powerful and prosperous Armenia in the future.
Is Armenia Your business? What to Do, If YES ?