Director of the Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan in an interview with ArmInfo discusses the processes in the Armenian society, the prospects for continuing the authorities' "apathy management". He shares his vision of real changes in connection with the transition from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system of government. And also argues the necessity and inevitability of the formation of a new political culture in Armenia.
Mr. Iskandaryan, in one of our previous interviews, you described the authorities' policy towards the society as a "management of apathy". What tendencies in this management do you see in the period following the parliamentary elections of April 2017?
In general, there is a rejection of politics by society. Even less than 10 years ago we saw the rejection of the ruling elite by society, while the opposition did not reject the opposition. Today, the entire political elite is rejected, the ratings of almost all political institutions are very low. Recently, ratings have fallen, for example, the army, which they had until recently. And to connect this only with April of last year, in my opinion, is wrong. Of course, people of which our society is composed react to certain processes taking place in our country, discourse, own behavior in response to certain events, and the interpretation of these events. Sociologists are well aware that very often people say one thing, they think differently, while doing something completely different. One thing is very clear today: people do not trust politicians and do not believe in politics as a whole, and people do not make a big difference between power and the opposition. This is what apathy is expressed in today.
Today, a tiny number of people are concentrated at protest actions, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered in protests in 2008. This type of action, respectively, is perceived as meaningless because people believe that in this way something can be achieved less and less. The political elite, in turn, is engaged in the management of the apathy described above, believing that it can be managed. And this is really so, because if a person does not believe anything, does not trust anyone and does not rely on anything, he can calmly vote as he is asked: the head of your community, your director, some familiar civil servant, a businessman. Then he will be paid for it, with money or other vital benefits. And so in, today, a significant number of people vote in Armenia. The movement towards such a state, to people's reconciliation to this reality began a long time ago, however, we observe the separation of people from the political reality we are today.
The trends are still the same, but what about the prospects, possible scenarios for the development of the situation? In particular, what can serve as an impetus to exit from the state of apathy?
Of course, such scenarios do exist. The situation in many other countries is an illustrative example of the impossibility of managing apathy forever. This situation has a special feature to develop. And the push that will lead to the explosion, in principle, the scenario is possible. Of course, it is impossible in today's Armenia, but it is not impossible in principle. The main thing, in my opinion, after all, is that such a solution to the problem will not lead to its solution. The problem is not to replace bad guys with good ones, which will lead to radical positive changes. Will not lead - this is an illusion. We know countries in which there was approximately a revolution per year for half a century, for example, Mexico. In Kyrgyzstan, power is constantly changing, but it has not led to any special changes. Such a push can lead to a change of people and a change in the names of structures. This was already in Armenia when the RPA replaced the ANM (Armenian National Movement) as the ruling party, and the enamel number of the Aodovites became Republicans overnight.
Is Karabakh a potential catalyst for the very push that can change the Armenian political reality and its main content?
Theoretically, yes, in practice, no. The real prospect of an abrupt change in the status quo around Karabakh can lead to serious turbulence in the internal political processes in Armenia. However, such a perspective is not visible. For any concessions on Karabakh, Armenia does not have the main partner. Azerbaijan is not that simple. And after Kazan talks in the Minsk format - talks about the number of monitors, investigation of incidents, lowering the level of violence, but not about the settlement itself. There is no such prospect, accordingly, talk about what will happen if something is "surrendered" to someone that is purely theoretical.
And the prospect of a consensus reached by the superpowers and regional powers on the Karabakh conflict does not make you concerned?
And he already is. The general consensus is that nobody cares about the war around Karabakh. But they have at their fingertips political tools to curb the escalation of the situation, shooting at the border is not enough. From time to time, blaming Mr. Aliyev for excessive bellicosity is obviously not enough for this. They have no other toolkit. Russia has plenty of armaments and France and the United States, but if they did not arrive in Georgia in 2008, they will definitely not arrive in Karabakh, especially against Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Kurdistan, the Iranian problem. There are enough problems and no one needs new ones. Accordingly, I do not see any serious prospects for changing the situation around Karabakh. Negotiations will alternate with escalations of a greater or lesser value.
What is valued by the voter in Armenia besides 10 thousand drams today or at least in the long term?
Armenian apathy is a form of ratio. An apathetic, albeit very primitive vote for 10,000 drams is a rational vote. And the question what can be countered in the eyes of such an apathetic person is 10 thousand drams really extremely important. He can promise a better life, having determined this by his own coming to power. But this has been done in Armenia for the past 25 years. As a result, people stopped believing in it. Our research demonstrates the existence of a certain demand for a policy, which, for the time being, does not exist in Armenia. Demand for politics, a force that will not promise a momentary sky in diamonds, but will work on one clear program, in a particular area in the direction of a slow change in reality. A political party that will not promote slogans into society, not to make hysteria in the parliament, but to propose a program. This is a demand for something else, different from the ephemeral promises of the revolution. I think that sooner or later, but the answer to this demand will be given. It is difficult to say when this happens in the absence of force majeure in Armenia, but in response to the demand, an offer will inevitably be formed. It is clear that it will not be easy to form to him and it is clear that the existing system will resist this.
And you consider the possibility of forming such a proposal, in fact, the most existing system?
The system itself is too blurred, it is not monolithic, its top is corroded by competition. Accordingly, it is not capable of proposing a single proposal. As long as the power on one hand will control apathy, and on the other - stay inside the system, making hysterics, it will not change anything. But it can develop in competition, as it was with the collapse of the USSR. The opposition of the 70-year tradition, a single party emerged from within the government as a result of the split. And such a split can occur within the ruling elite in Armenia, especially given the presence of various interest groups in it. However, it seems to me that for now it is too early to talk about this.
Are there any preconditions for such a split within the "umbrella" RPA, considering the approach of April 2018 - the term of the end of Serzh Sargsyan's authorization and the appointment of a new head of state in the rank of prime minister instead of acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan?
Undoubtedly, the RPA will make a decision that is the result of the consensus of its leaders. It is another matter that this consensus should still be formed as a result of the ongoing undercover struggle. The whole struggle is on the sidelines and society is not aware of it. Based on its results, a decision will be adopted, which will subsequently be observed, since the withdrawal from the power structure carries much greater risks than submission to the system. Mr. Tsarukyan tried, while remaining in the elite system, simultaneously claiming more than he was offered. And as a result of the collision, he lost more than he could get. In Armenia and the post-Soviet space as a whole, the rules of the game are increasingly being formed with the results of which everyone agrees. As for Karen Karapetyan, he is a man from the outside,he was brought into the system at some time as a crisis manager. At first, thanks to him, in the first place, he managed to quite a lot of PR. Over the past 20 years, I can not remember the person who came to politics and who had some hopes. However, it is because he is a person from outside that he does not have enough support. He does not have his own people in the apparatus, there is no hardware history, he is not his product, he does not have his own team. All this needs to be created, and time is short and it is extremely difficult to create all this in a year or two. He does it, there are already some elements of the team supporting his people in the posts. There is some sort of struggle, but in this struggle, he must use external methods in relation to the political system, and not methods of corridor-apparatus struggle. Work by offering specific programs, using your own image, attracting investments, trying to work for economic development. It is interesting to observe this, however, I do not attach special importance to the one who will be the prime minister in 2018. Much more important is how the structure of power will evolve, how the new management scheme will look like.
It follows from your words that Karapetyan still has an internal demand for the first place, whereas many mass media have recently published information on the existence of an agreement between him and Sargsyan....
Unlike these many,I do not have "bugs" in high offices. In general, I believe that political analysts are inseparable, but not helpful. The presence of all these gossips creates a noise effect, which prevents the analysis of the real situation. I know exactly and understand one thing - gossip of this kind is distributed specifically from dozens of places. Much is said about the external, Russian influence on the question of shaping the person of the future prime minister. In order to assess the reliability of this version, let's try to answer a simple question: what does Russia need from Armenia? Russia needs Armenia's support of its own political line in the Caucasus in some important international formats. These formats are provided with such serious geopolitical tool as the Karabakh conflict, the need for Armenia's security, the actual NATO embargo on arms sales, closed by Turkey for Armenia + configuration of the Turkish-Azerbaijani relations, Armenia's geographical isolation, the presence of the Armenian-Russian Georgian, etc. . In such realities, it is more than obvious that if any crazy person leads Armenia, then in general, Russia will not have problems with this format. Therefore, I think that at the level of serious state interest, Moscow is not particularly interested in who exactly will sit in the armchair of the Prime Minister of Armenia.
Do you think that in conditions of parliamentarism, subjects within the authorities will find it more difficult to negotiate to determine the decision-making center than it was under the semi-presidential system of government?
In general, yes. In a situation where decisions are made not in one cabinet - presidential, with people inside the Republican Party, they have to negotiate, they have to buy, enter into a relationship with them. Just give the order that they vote for the candidacy of the prime minister is no longer enough. They will have to be persuaded, and this is another scheme that will work differently, regardless of who will sit in the prime minister's chair. That's what is important, not someone who sits down in the prime minister's chair. The system was created, but it was created only on paper, through the reform of the Constitution. Changes are unavoidable, and as a result, power will be if not more democratic, then more consensual - the elite will have to negotiate, and eventually this consensus will be achieved more and more difficult and more difficult. In a more global social context, changes in one moment are simply impossible. The creation of institutions is not enough, they are necessarily corrupt. Changes are possible only through a change in political culture, daily work aimed at changing people's attitude to voting, election, freedom, etc. To take the same 10 thousand drams and simultaneously expect that tomorrow in the country there will be radical changes only because the authorities will have 5 new faces instead of the five who will leave - the manifestation of infantilism, from which the society must finally grow.
In other words, changes will become a reality only when it becomes more difficult for politicians to agree not only among themselves, but also with the electorate? Then, when people can be brought to the urn for voting without giving them the very 10 thousand, but exclusively persuading, then when these people finally realize that they are citizens not just for a tick in the passport?
Definitely. Without any doubt. And the first step in this way is the pluralization of the decision-making process, when citizens will be persuaded by different forces, when broad social groups enter politics. So far, they participate in Armenian politics every 5 years and their choice is very limited: to take or not to take a bribe, to participate or not to participate in protests. It's all. People need, finally, to get rid of primitive thinking, get rid of the personification of politicians, stop dividing them into bad and good. People should stop thinking in terms of faith in a particular politician. Politicians do not need to believe, their actions simply need to be analyzed. In return, all this must come with awareness, understanding of realities, rationalism. I hope that with time all this will come, but in order for it to come to political scientists, journalists, teachers in schools and universities, all those who speak on TV have much to do. At the same time, you can not take bribes and hope for revolutionary changes. It's impossible.