Wednesday, 14 June 2006

ARMENIA’S RULING COALITION UNRAVELS

Published in Analytical Articles

By Grigor Hakobyan (6/14/2006 issue of the CACI Analyst)

BACKGROUND: On May 29th, Artur Baghdasaryan officially relinquished his position as the Chairman of National Assembly of Armenia. His resignation was caused by growing differences between his party and the presidential administration, as well as its partners in the coalition, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Republican Party of Armenia. To some external political observers, the history of disagreements between the outspoken Chair of National Assembly, often accused by his opponents for engaging in populism, began last year.
BACKGROUND: On May 29th, Artur Baghdasaryan officially relinquished his position as the Chairman of National Assembly of Armenia. His resignation was caused by growing differences between his party and the presidential administration, as well as its partners in the coalition, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Republican Party of Armenia. To some external political observers, the history of disagreements between the outspoken Chair of National Assembly, often accused by his opponents for engaging in populism, began last year. At the time, Artur Baghdasaryan accused the ruling government of engaging in voting irregularities on the eve of the constitutional referendum in Armenia and forwarded a list of recorded cases of alleged voting misconduct to the Supreme Court for review. The tensions between him and the member coalition partners, as well as the presidential administration, continued to increase when he further ventured into the foreign policy field and began making statements on various issues pertaining to Armenian-Russian, Armenian-NATO and Armenian-Turkish relations. Specifically, he advocated the pursuit of NATO membership for Armenia, retaliatory actions toward Russia for their decision to raise gas prices for Armenia by charging the difference in gas prices for the hosting of Russian military base in the country. The last straw for Baghdasaryan’s career in the ruling administration came after he made calls for reviewing the 2001-2003 privatization decisions, due to various fraudulent tenders that he alleged had occurred during the implementation of the controversial privatization program.

IMPLICATIONS: Baghdasaryan’s active advocacy with a view to scrutinizing the country’s recent privatization program caused discontent among many of his party’s business elite, who benefited from the above-mentioned privatization program and saw their positions endangered from their association with the ever more vocal Baghdasaryan, whose criticism of the ruling administration failed to subside. The defection of nearly a dozen of parliamentarians associated with Orinats Yerkir resulted in the decline of the party’s faction in the Armenian National Assembly and undermined the party’s role in the coalition government. That also showed the main weakness of the party, which was the lack of a unique political vision that would attract people regardless of whether the party is a part of the ruling government or the opposition. Artur Baghdasaryan was considered the most outspoken politician advocating NATO membership for Armenia, as well as rapid integration into European political structures. His pro-European views earned him the title of “The Best European of the Year”. Very often, he was perceived by various political observers as the most likely candidate to earn the largest number of votes in the next presidential elections. However, his subsequent demise and the party’s positioning as an opposition force toward the current authorities, coupled with the desertion of many wealthy businessmen that provided financial backing for the party, may seriously undermine his chances to win the upcoming presidential elections in 2008. Very few wealthy businessmen would ever consider to back a political opposition force, thus undermining their own access to the ruling administration which provided them with the opportunity to prosper in the first place. The Orinats Yerkir party’s past membership in the ruling coalition does not attract make it appealing to the current opposition forces in Armenia either, as many of the opposition forces view the transition of Orinats Yerkir from party of power into a party in opposition as another calculated political move by the presidential administration of Armenia to further split the less than cohesive opposition. Meanwhile, other opposition forces consider the sudden move of Orinats Yerkir party into the opposition camp as a calculated pre-election move on behalf of Baghdasaryan, designed to further his personal ambitions by first distancing himself from the ruling administration and secondly creating a momentum to recreate himself for the purpose of enlarging his electorate and creating an opportunity to pick up additional votes from a portion of Armenian voters who would otherwise have voted for a mainstream opposition candidate. Another factor to consider is the potential for the remaining parties in power, the Republican Party of Armenia and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), if successful in the upcoming parliamentary elections, to eventually play a decisive role in speeding up the realignment of political forces in Armenia by consolidating them into a more cohesive and clear-cut political spectrum where a line between liberal and conservative ideologists would be easier to distinguish. The amorphous political situation in Armenia has created a situation where most political parties lack a clear political vision. They mostly feed off empty rhetoric, and their would-be members rally around specific personalities and not specific policies. Parties may pride themselves by the number of their party memberships, yet this only increases or decreases depending on whether the party in question is in power or in opposition and not by any tangible accomplishments for the benefit of the people. Clearly, this situation is not sustainable.

CONCLUSIONS:The transition of the Orinats Yerkir from a party in power to a party in opposition was long anticipated, as the disagreements within the ruling coalition became more transparent after the passage of the Constitutional Referendum in Armenia. The controversies over voting irregularities during the Constitutional Referendum, differences over the country’s foreign policies, and the common belief among the two junior partners of the government led by the Republican Party of Armenia – that is Orinats Yerkir and the ARF – that they were cheated out of votes during the parliamentary elections could not but undermine the effective work of the coalition government. Indeed, Orinats Yerkir is not the only disgruntled party: the continuous tension between the ARF and the Republican Party could further split the ruling coalition by resulting in the exodus of another party from the coalition government. As Armenia’s parliamentary elections of 2007 are fast approaching, it is expected that further splits, consolidations and the introduction of new political parties in the nation’s political life will continue to occur. As a number of well-known oligarchs and government officials rush to create new political parties to vie for the laurels of power, strengthening their own positions and advancing their personal agendas, the common electorate will continue to feel ostracized and further disfranchised from the entire political process. The situation will change only if and when people realize that their votes do really matter and that they do have a power to a make a difference in the life of their country.

AUTHOR’S BIO: Grigor Hakobyan is a freelance writer based in the U.S. East Coast.

Read 3380 times

Visit also

silkroad

AFPC

isdp

turkeyanalyst

Staff Publications

Oped S. Frederick Starr, Russia Needs Its Own Charles de Gaulle,  Foreign Policy, July 21, 2022.

2206-StarrSilk Road Paper S. Frederick Starr, Rethinking Greater Central Asia: American and Western Stakes in the Region and How to Advance Them, June 2022 

Oped Svante E. Cornell & Albert Barro, With referendum, Kazakh President pushes for reforms, Euractiv, June 3, 2022.

Oped Svante E. Cornell Russia's Southern Neighbors Take a Stand, The Hill, May 6, 2022.

Silk Road Paper Johan Engvall, Between Bandits and Bureaucrats: 30 Years of Parliamentary Development in Kyrgyzstan, January 2022.  

Oped Svante E. Cornell, No, The War in Ukraine is not about NATO, The Hill, March 9, 2022.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, Kazakhstan’s Crisis Calls for a Central Asia Policy Reboot, The National Interest, January 34, 2022.

StronguniquecoverBook S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell, Strong and Unique: Three Decades of U.S.-Kazakhstan Partnership, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, December 2021.  

Silk Road Paper Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr & Albert Barro, Political and Economic Reforms in Kazakhstan Under President Tokayev, November 2021.

The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

Newsletter

Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst

Newsletter