Goodbye Prez. Sargsyan; Hello PM Sargsyan

 Editorial, 6 October 2015

The tiny country you lead has been hurting since independence because of a two decade long blockade by two of its neighbors. The country faces almost daily border attacks from its eastern neighbor whose leader regularly promises to invade your country with the latest in military weaponry.  Thus an unaffordable chunk of your budget is reserved to defense. The economy is in dire shape, and there are no signs that it would improve anytime soon. Unemployment, especially among the young, is high. Tens of thousands of your citizens are leaving the country. Tens of thousands protesters, led by the leaders of the opposition, regularly hold rallies at the centre of your capital demanding your immediate resignation.

What do you do?

 Editorial, 6 October 2015

The tiny country you lead has been hurting since independence because of a two decade long blockade by two of its neighbors. The country faces almost daily border attacks from its eastern neighbor whose leader regularly promises to invade your country with the latest in military weaponry.  Thus an unaffordable chunk of your budget is reserved to defense. The economy is in dire shape, and there are no signs that it would improve anytime soon. Unemployment, especially among the young, is high. Tens of thousands of your citizens are leaving the country. Tens of thousands protesters, led by the leaders of the opposition, regularly hold rallies at the centre of your capital demanding your immediate resignation.

What do you do?

If you are President Serzh Sargsyan you decide to amend the country’s Constitution to make it more “democratic”.

Why the sudden concern in democracy when throughout your two terms you’ve had less than passing interest in the rule of law? Why the interest in democracy when you and your fellow oligarchs have stomped over people’s rights and bilked them as a birth right? Why a concern in democracy when your gangster buddies resort to violence at the drop of a black leather jacket?

Take Ruben Hayrapetyan (Nemetz Rubo) —please.  The poster child of the oligarchy’s contempt of law has made a habit of using muscle and bullets to have his way. And more than once he has walked away with impunity.

Last August Hayrapetyan beat and abducted Arsen Avetisian, majority shareholder and CEO of the defunct Air Armenia. Avetisian suffered a broken nose and other injuries.  In 2012 Hayrapetyan beat up a doctor working for the Pyunik football club which is controlled by Ruben the Fist. Last year he verbally and physically attacked a Pyunik player. Three years ago, at Yerevan’s Harsnakar restaurant (owned by the Hayrapetyan family), the oligarch’s “body guards” beat an army medic (Vahe Avetyan) to death. Two years ago, another goon and friend of President Sargsyan, Syunik Governor Suren Khachatryan (known as Liska) killed Avedik Budaghyan. Prosecutor Gevork Kostanyan, shuffled the decks, and the killer went unpunished. Incidentally, Hayrapetyan is the head of the Football Federation of Armenia and a heavyweight at Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party. On Sept. 21, veteran Smbat Hagobyan of the Hayazn (Defenders Alliance) was severely beaten by an unknown gang in downtown Yerevan following an anti-Sargsyan rally. He suffered a fractured bone, scalp and soft tissue injuries, in addition to a broken nose.

Levon Zurabyan, leader of the Armenian National Congress—an opposition party—says the president’s plan to amend the Constitution is designed to extend the president’s reign. Zurabyan’s accusation is credible. A key component of the amendment will reduce the power of the president to nothing more than a ceremonial level and boost that of the prime minister to the apex of the state. During his two terms, Sargsyan has ruled with an iron fist. Now that he is approaching the end of his second term—he can’t run for a third term—slippery Sargsyan intends to diminish the power of the president and transform himself through convoluted rule changes into…a newly-minted PRIME MINISTER. A hop from one dais to another. A recycled president.  Capo di capi by any other name.

The intricate somersaults that Sargsyan has cunningly plotted to legitimize his latest ambition would leave even a jaded international constitutional expert in awe.

According to the polls, conducted by group opposed to the reforms, 60% of Armenian citizens are against the amendment. A referendum is scheduled for Dec. 6 when the citizens will officially express their views. Judging by the corruption, the bribes and threats at election time, it would surprise no one if Sargsyan gets the “yes” vote to his proposal.

That Sargsyan is concerned in a more democratic Armenia is patently false. As another opposition spokesman (Gagik Jhangiryan) said: “In our country the government consecutively isn’t formed by the people. It turns out that the main law of the country isn’t applied practically. In that case why are you changing it? It isn’t a theoretical judgment or a lecture. The Constitution isn’t applied also in the economy. The main conclusion is that instead of changing dozens of provisions of the current Constitution, we must apply them: we have never lived according to the current Constitution. We must apply it to see its drawbacks.”

To convince his reluctant citizens that his amendments are good for Armenia, Sargsyan has sought the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the European Commission for Democracy Through Law, also known as the Venice Commission. The canny president has even approved several suggestions the commission has made. But getting a letter of approval from European experts isn’t worth the paper it’s written on when the laws—like the ones in the current Constitution—are applied only when they are in Sargsyan’s interest.

The president’s amendments have the backing of his Republican Party, the Prosperous Party (established by Sargsyan stooge Dodi Gago), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation… They are opposed by the Armenian National Congress, Heritage Party and several others. But the pro and con political parties are irrelevant. Sargsyan and his Republican Party will have their way… just as dictators Erdogan changed jobs to become president of Turkey and Vladimir Putin “stepped aside” for a term and appointed his puppet Medvedev to “lead” the country.  Serjik is in good company.

Armenia's Constitution's Chapter 1, Article 1, says that Armenia is a sovereign, democratic, "socialagan" (սոցիալական) state [whatever that means] and that it's governed by the rule of law. It's not sovereign. It's not socialagan (?). It's not governed by the rule of law. And Sargsyan's amendments will not make it democratic.

  1. Despite all the drawbacks

    Despite all the drawbacks that you preach, for most of us proud Armenians the mere existence of our independence for over 24 years should suffice and be encouraging at this time, looking forward for gradual improvements in every section. We have a long way to go to restore the full democracy that our people deserve.

    No one can deny the problems our Homeland is facing as a result of inherited near past. We need opposition and that's healthy for our Nation. We will prosper and flourish, no doubt about it, and more than ever we should be united behind our President, our brave Army, and our people staying in the homeland despite of all the difficulties

    Viva Armenia!

  2. Ridiculous

    Dear Editor,

    Your article is baseless and ridiculous. According to you, 60% of Armenian citizens are against the amendment. The truth is that 60% of Armenian citizens haven't even seen or read the amendment.
    You are saying that President Serzh Sargsyan has ruled with an iron fist. That's not true. From your article I can see you have not integrated with the Eastern Armenians. That means you don't have the right to to tell other people how strictly the Armenian people must be ruled.

    The fight re Hayrapetyan. You told only one part of the story. That's not fair. The fact is people who are cheated ask the support of Hayrapetyan. So many times this ends up with tragedy.

    Serzh Sargsyan is the president of all the Armenian people. He has nothing to do with Hayrapetyan's personal problems.

    You describe Putin, Serzh Sargsyan and Erdogan as dictators. Please take it into account these leaders are the most popular in their countries.
    It's time you started to upgrade your political knowledge and stopped being a tool like Cameron, Tony Blair, and many other marionettes.
    Don't mess with brave President Vladimir Putin. He stood there in Dzidzernagapert. He is cleaning up the mess in Syria which your Muslim leaders have created by cleansing the Christian population of Syria.

    Don't betray us.

    Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian

  3. I Am Aghast

    The temerity of this editorial is astounding. You are too harsh, disrespectful, and too arrogant to be credible. With all his shortcomings, Sargsyan is ahead of all the other politicians combined.
  4. Unfortunate and dismaying

    It's unfortunate that rather than address the important issue the editorial raises, several letter-writers have digressed far and wide. The editorial condemns the games Sargsyan is playing to extend his reign. The editorial makes a good case that because he can't become president for a third term, Sargsyan is shrinking the president's power to almost zero and is inflating the power of the prime minster–the position he is plotting to grab. Through intimidation, bribery, fraudulent schemes at election time, he has maintained his power in parliament and the ballot box. He obviously plans to continue his one-man rule. It's dismaying that some people don't mind these illegal acts and the continued rule of Armenia's number-one oligarch.


    1. Do You Honestly…?


      Do you honestly believe what you've written? Really? He is doing this for himself? It would be beyond easy for him with the current constitution (not the new one) to get Republican party majority in 2017, easily get a Republican or an ally (say Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan) elected president in 2018 and then he would easily and justifiably return as prime minister after he leaves the post of president.

      For this, he doesn't even need to change the constitution! But guess what. He has stated numerous times that he wants to retire. You don't believe him; that is your problem.

      It is irresponsible of you to make up such conspiracy theories. Will you apologize to all, when Sargsyan retires from politics in 2018? Or that's too far off and you can make any claims you want now to create sensationalism and prove your non-existent plots?

      And next time when you make such grand claims of "intimidation, bribery fraudulent schemes at election time", provide proof please: How many ballots were stuffed? In each polling station there were representatives of all the parties. Where are the reports of "large scale" irregularities? Where are your facts? There are none, that's the problem. And no, please don't give me couple of youtube links of somebody shouting or beating up another person and claim that it's an intimidation tactic. That's way of life in Armenia. As for intimidation look at your own backyard, Stephen Harper, prime minister of the "most civilized country" in the world, where you live. He can give master classes in what intimidation really is.

      So please get rid of this "holier than thou" attitude when it comes to our Armenia which is independent for less than 25 years. God bless Armenia, and God bless President Sargsyan who is doing his best to give a better future to our homeland.

      1. Loyalty


        It's obvious logic to predict one's behavior by studying his/her track record. That's the rationale why job-seekers prepare glowing resumes. President Serge Sargsyan's two-terms and the tactics he employed to get elected and re-elected give reason to an impartial observer to doubt his words and intentions.

        I am perplexed by your mention that Canada's prime minister tends to intimidate his opposition. What does that have to do with the price of a cup of coffee? Are we in the school sandbox arguing whose father is stronger?

        I wish you would not confuse loyalty to our homeland with blind loyalty.


        1. Mesrob,Empty words. Instead


          Empty words. Instead of hypothetical criticisms of the President, or some utopian democracy ideas, or acting like a God sent political analyst talking about tactics, I advise you to go and stand beside or amongst our heroic soldiers on the border. You can't operate arms? It's OK, just stand beside them, make and serve them their food for a couple of weeks. Until then, every Armenian sitting in the diaspora, complaining about this and that and wasting his time in enlightening us how Armenia should be or how the Armenian president should be, should take a good look at himself in the mirror and ask this important question:

          Hpart Hye em , te – – – -?

          Be honest with the answer.

          I do it. It puts things, opinions and things I want to say in perspective, before I share them with others.

          In today's social media infested world you can publicly criticize 24 hours a day , if you'd like. Other than creating useless hysteria, you're not accomplishing anything. Nothing. Again: nothing.

          My loyalty is to independent Armenia which was so difficult to achieve. The Presidency (whoever the person is), the Catholicos (whoever that person is) the Flag, the Anthem, the Coat of Arms: These are national values. There are certainly productive ways to criticize, but  there is a red line which we should not allow ourselves to cross especially as a small nation. Enough with this parap-sarap criticism. Be the change that you want to see. Rather than criticizing the president. A job you will never have in your life, a job you cannot even understand unless you've had it.

          And to the writer of the article, who shamelessly includes "Serjik" in the article, how would you feel if they call you Diko, Dikoush, Jirig, Pishig or any other degrading name? It's a shame really….For the level that this forum tries to achieve.

          1. You choose not to address the issue


            Since you choose not to address the issue (president succeeding himself as prime minister) I raised, I have no option but to ignore your future comments.

            What does guarding the border have to do with Serge Sargsyan's underhanded amendments to the constitution?

            Serjik? Some people use it as an endearing nickname. It's not necessarily a negative handle.

            And please don't wrap yourself in the tricolor. It's too easy and embarrassing.

            "Patriotism is the last refuge of…"(Out of courtesy, I'd rather not use the last word)", as Dr. Samuel Johnson said.


          2. Guarding the Border


            You ask: "What does guarding the border have to do with Serge Sargsyan's underhanded amendments to the constitution?" It's the difference between being useful and totally useless. And what good is it for you to analyze, complain about the hypothetical issue of Sargsyan becoming PM. It's no better than grandmas looking and interpreting the bottom of the coffee cup and predict and what it holds for the future. Instead of wasting your time and complaining about things you have no idea about, nor control, do something useful as an Armenian: serve our heroes on the border.

            Always proud of the Yerakouyn and what our small nation has accomplished and continues to accomplish despite all. Meanwhile,  instead of getting insulted so easily, get out of the dark place you're in.


  5. Arrogant and Baseless

    A rather arrogant and baseless article, with the traditional "hate thyself" attitude. It conveniently doesn't mentioned that on numerous occasions Serj Sargsyan has said he will not seek the presidency nor the position of the prime minister when the new constitution is adopted.

    The new constitution is great. It's reminiscent of Germany's and Italy's. The ARF, to its credit, had an important role in its development. It certainly has more potential to be democratic than the functioning one. And it avoids the presidential elections, which have always been a reason for great tension in the country. We don't need that anymore; enough is enough.

    With all the conversation about Nemetz and Liska…you look at the "opposition": Postanjyan is a nervous wreck and her place should/will always be in the opposition. Raffi Hovhannisyan got his chance but completely blew it. Pashinyan doesn't even know what he wants. The LTP clique is broken beyond repair. And then, of course, the absolute worst of the worst are Sefilian and his cohorts at the  Himnadir Khorhrdaran, who change their organization's name every other day, an uneducated group of people, a truly pathetic bunch sold to foreign interests, whose genius idea of starting a revolution on the 100th Anniversary of the Genocide, on our holiest day, became the funeral of their own organization, which has now turned itself into a Facebook gossip and curse club and has lost its relevance. More and more Sefilian is resembling a "Kach Nazar". Such pity that he has fallen so low from his place in history as an Artsakh war hero.

    Imagine any of the above individuals sitting face-to-face with Putin during negotiations. Just the thought of it is hilarious.

    Closely following Armenia's politics since independence, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that Sargsyan is a very patriotic Armenian and truly wants the best for our nation. Of course he has his faults, and he always tries to correct mistakes, if any. But his plus points are too many to state here.

    So yes, after looking around I hope and wish Serj as prime minister (even though it will not happen) or Seyran Ohanyan. But definitely not any of today's opportunist oppositionists.

  6. Well said Tomik

    Well said Tomik Alexanian.
    Well said Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian.
    Well said Armen Baghdoyan.

    Very well said Artur Mazmanian.
    Very well said indeed.

    I will not address many of the claims made by the Editorial, nor by poster Mesrob at this time.
    But will cite one episode to show how irrational some of RoA’s opposition is and how truly democratic RoA is.

    A couple of years ago MP Zaruhi Postanjyan, in Europe, at a PACE meeting, publicly and in the presence of enemies of RoA,  falsely accused RoA President of  losing $60 million (yes, million) in gambling.
    Not a shred of evidence was offered, of course.
    No photos, no videos, no witnesses.
    Just a false accusation.
    By a Member of Parliament of RoA against the duly elected President of Armenia.
    In a foreign country.
    In the presence of Azerbaijani delegates.

    In both US and Canada that Congressman or MP  would be forced out of the political party by his/her own party.

    But in Armenia, after her infamous speech, and with people in Armenia getting ready to meet her at the Yerevan  airport in protest, for what comes close to a treasonous act, President Sargsian publicly asked potential protesters to stand down.
    MP Postanjyan was met at the airport by a dozen of her family and friends.
    Head of Heritage, Raffi Hovanissian,of course supported  Postanjyan in her libelous accusation against the sitting president.

  7. Amot Tsez

    Reforms and amendments, whatever they are, and whether Serzh Sargsyan is planning to come back as Prime Minister or not, I understand the larger picture to be setting the stage for the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) to perpetuate its rule under the guise of constitutional reforms.

    RPA represents the most right-wing party in Armenia, and it is no secret that oligarchs and their stooges are in control amassing fortunes for themselves. Anybody who does not see this reality or does not wish to acknowledge it is either politically blind or is aligned to the oligarchs ideologically, institutionally and/or financially.

    What baffles me is the role of the bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in all of this hullabaloo. ARF professes socialist principles, but it seems the bureau's ministerial-seat hunger is much more dominant than principles.

    I am the son of ARF-sympathizer father and I have lived in Armenia for almost a decade. I wonder what my late father would have exactly said in view of this tragicomedy, but one thing I am sure of. He would be aghast and exclaim, "Amot Tsez"

    Artnatsek Yeghpayrk!

  8. Democracy

    I do not want to comment on merits of present and past presidents, neither on amendments, which I have not examined. It is not really important how popular is the president, the  time is up and he must go. That is the only remedy to avoid stagnation, and creation of authoritarian regime.

    No matter if you know  a better candidate or not, any fresh air, any new face, party or ideology is better than present corrupt and clan system.  Levon resigned, Robert left (may be miscalculated  a come back). It's time for Serj to retire, enjoy all wealth he stole and stop mingling in active political life. 

    There must be at least something that distinguishes Armenia from Putin's Russia, Aliyev's Azerbaijan, Central Asia or Belarus.  

  9. Reply to Derenik

    Derenik wrote: “Anybody who does not see this reality or does not wish to acknowledge it is either politically blind or is aligned to the oligarchs ideologically, institutionally and/or financially.”

    When posters cannot prove their point with facts and figures,  they sling mud at those who disagree with their opinion. Let me repeat: their opinion.

    I am neither “politically blind” nor aligned with anyone – ideologically or otherwise.

    I do not acknowledge your allegations, because that’s all they are: allegations.

    You have lived in  Armenia for almost a decade? Great: thank you very much, but you are not the only who lives in Armenia. In February 2013 there was an RoA presidential election. Citizens of the RoA participated at a rate of 60%. For comparison, Gore vs Bush had 54% participation. Obama vs McCain 61%. Bush vs Clinton 55%.

    Incumbent Sargsian won 58% vs challenger Hovanissian at 37%. About 861,000 citizens of Armenia voted to retain President Sargsian. Some 540,000 citizens of Armenia voted to fire President Sargsian. You (generic you) don’t like the results? Too bad:.In a democracy 50%+1 wins. Live with it.

    President Sargsian won by a landslide: a 21% difference landslide. Does it mean RoA citizens like him? Not at all. It means they prefer him over the challenger. End of story.

  10. Regarding  RPA and Others

    Regarding the RPA and other RoA political parties.
    You (generic you) don’t like the RPA party? Fine. list the political parties and the individuals from those political parties who you think will be better managers of Armenia than the RPA.

    Put up some names so we can discuss them. You don’t like President Sargsian? OK. List some names that are publicly known so we can compare. Also please cite verifiable sources that show your ideal candidate can get more than a few percentage points. For example, RoA ARF leaders (e.g. Armen Rustamyan, Giro (Kiro) Manoyan) are patriotic, intelligent, and rational people. But the RoA-ARF can't get traction with voters. The ARF gets not more than about 5% in parliamentary elections. 

    Complaining about something or someone is not enough: offer a solution. It's easy to complain. But can you do better? Do you have a better alternative? Let's hear it.


  11. Editorial Spot On

    The editorial is spot on when it lists all the problems that Armenian people of the RoA are facing and on the other hand, the RoA ruling class and President Serjik's manipulations and priorities.

    So what do we have to list here as achievement of the current rule? Safety and security? Look at the border incidents and murdered/abducted citizens and soldiers regularly. Border closure is a threat to RoA's security. So there goes your "Abahov Hayastan" (Secure Armenia). 

    Economy? What happened to the slogan "job, house and car" for each young family?

    A double-dip recession with a closed-circuit economy where oligarchs and RPA/Serjik rule decide who invests in what and where.

    Unemployment. No FDI. Inflation. Poverty. No economic growth and no TRUST in the RoA by foreign businesses.

    Social and justice? Increase in violent crimes, beatings and violence, thefts and burglaries, unsolved crimes, unfair court verdicts, unpunished culprits and criminals.

    Education? Total failure. It's a joke and I can justify my statement with many instances and links.

    Health care is another joke. Sub-standard service by public hospitals and clinics is the rule.

    The list is long.

    Any government and rule that has all these failures (whether inherited and not resolved or simply not resolved) over the past 8 years, should resign. It's time for a change. Don't justify this rule by saying there are no alternatives. Once the chance is given to people with capabilities, good intentions and clean hands, there will be many who will come forward. 

    Finally, it's time to really engage the Diaspora Armenians by inviting the skilled ones, the technical experts, the lawyers/economists, politicians and academics who have succeeded in their host countries to come and help Armenia recover and establish a state. Read and study the history of Israel. Most of their leaders and contributors of state-building were born in the diaspora. There is nothing wrong in that. 

    Folkloric meetings, conferences, exhibitions, church openings and telethons will not change realities. New leaders, mixed from Diaspora and the RoA should come forward. Change in leadership is a must and not change in laws and constitution.

    We , Armenians, can't continue as a nation into the 21st century with the likes of Serjik, Hovik Abrahamyan, Kalousd Sahakian as our leaders. It's a shame if we confide in them and accept their sub-standard leadership.  

    1. “We , Armenians, Can’t…”

      “We, Armenians, can't continue…..” Which election was it that you ran in and won at least  50%+1 votes of either RoA’s or Armenian Diaspora to speak on behalf of all Armenians?
      And instead of writing long essays complaining about everybody and everything, how about giving us a short list of candidates who will be better managers and stewards of the RoA.

      1. Elections or Nation-Building

        Are you talking about elections? I am talking about nation-building. Your cohorts and employers in the RoA have been thinking about elections and consolidating their rule in the past 25 years. That's why we have a ruling party/clan but not a state and establishment.

        Stroll on streets of Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and other towns and ask who believes in the RoA elections' transparency and fairness. Count how many "yes" and "no" you will get. Hiding the head in the sand doesn't cover the naked a.. 

        I did "complain about everybody and everything" but I just stated realities of Armenian life. Accepting sub-standard realities and outdated manners of the past, compromising is/was a way of life in the Diaspora and in the past 25 years it has become the same in the RoA with some exceptions.

        I won't get into the "game" of naming people who can or are worth succeeding this regime, because proposed names serve as an excuse for apolegetic people for Avery to continue praising this bunch of lazy macho men who rule the RoA.  

        Ruben Vardanyan can surely be a better PM than Hovik Abrahamyan, Patrick Devedjian, Mkrtich Mkrtchyan, Mkrtich Bouldoukian, Robert Mehrabian, Aram Chobanian and a huge number of others as consultants and contributors from the US, France, UK, Middle East as they are experts in law, finance, medicine, health care, an education. In Lebanon Armenians have held important ministerial posts for many decades (energy, economy, trade, labor and social affairs) and can bring their expertise to the RoA. 

        As for Armenia, without doing a thorough search several names come to mind such as Ardzvik Minassian, Naira Zohrabian, Mher Shalgedyan, Styopa Safaryan, Anush Setrakyan, Zoya Tadevosyan, Ara Papyan, Arman Kirakosyan who can handle ministerial portfolios and be part of future governments.

        Armenia and Armenians, in general, do not lack human resources but what is lacking is access and exposure to lead and manage the country and its people by persons with clean hands and conscience and professional expertise. 

  12. Editorial failed create meaningful exchange

    For all I know Parliamentarian System is more of  a commonly accepted way of governance than presidential.

    Like any other system it is the sum total pros and cons. Judging from what goes on in Israel where many parties compete to secure a presence, as one would expect to happen in Armenia, the following comes to my mind. Very small parties may at times exercise influence way too disproportionate to their number as their siding would tilt the precarious balance between the two dominant parties and the other is that legislation and election of a Prime minister may get bogged down and drag paralyzing the political process.

    That this is a backdoor for President Sarkissian to come on board as a Prime Minister clouds the issue on the merit of this system of governance in Armenia; consequently this editorial failed create the forum for some meaningful exchange on the merits of this form of governance for Armenia over the Presidential adopted since the inception of the third republic

    1. Where to Focus


      I disagree with you re the focus of the article. Whether the current or the Sargsyan-initiated amended constitution is better is very much of secondary importance. As prime minister, he would manipulate the new constitution just as he has the current one. I believe the article mentioned that what's on paper is immaterial in this instance. Sargsyan frequently ignored the current constitution. So what is more important is the man's intentions not the glowing generalities of the planned constitution. The focus is rightly on Sargsyan's plot to use the amended constitution to return to power as prime minister.

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