Sergey Markedonov, a Russian analyst and specialist for the South Caucasus, in his interview with ArmInfo comments on the Armenian "velvet revolution", shares the forecast for the further development of the situation. He talks about external and internal factors that contribute to and impede changes in the country's foreign policy.
Share the most possible (in your opinion) scenarios for the development of situation in Armenia on the day of voting on the candidacy of the Prime minister on May 8 and in the subsequent period before the early elections. Considering also the readiness to support the people's candidate declared by Republicans on May 2.
As of today, the situation leads to the fact that Armenia will soon have a new Prime minister. The main foundation for such a forecast, of course, is the readiness of the Republican Party to support a candidate from the opposition. Here we should especially emphasize the support of the leader of the people's movement Nikol Pashinyan, represented by 45 parliamentary votes, not only from the Yelk bloc, but also from Prosperous Armenia and the ARFD, expressed to him on May 1 vote session. I do not think that he would have been able to increase his representation in parliament if he had limited himself to just a rally activity. Without numerous negotiations, this would not have happened. Thus, to complete the change of power from Pashinyan, it does not require linear thinking and not standard actions. This requires completely different qualities, skills that Pashinyan has already demonstrated during the week that followed the departure of his main opponent, Serzh Sargsyan. First of all, these are the steps of a revisionist pragmatist in the form of negotiations with parliamentary factions, including RPA representatives. Pashinyan managed to enlist the support that came before the April turmoil in the ruling coalition with Republicans of the ARF and the bloc of one of the richest people in Armenia - Gagik Tsarukyan. That's really who is not suitable for the role of fighter with the oligarchy and defender of the disadvantaged people. As for the foreign policy, Pashinyan's talks with the Russian embassy in Armenia, with the State Duma delegation are important. Negotiations on the results of which, even usually inclined to see in any mass actions in the post-Soviet countries, Maidan, the head of the Duma committee for CIS affairs Leonid Kalashnikov, stated Pashinyan's interest in developing relations with Russia. The refusal of the Republicans to support Pashinyan on the first ballot on May 1, I regard in the context of the desire to raise bets with a view to obtaining more favorable terms, guarantees of personal and economic order, guarantees for the future composition of the government for the second voting on May 8. Pashinyan responded to all this with a call for a general strike, thereby raising the stakes even higher. To that, the Republicans have nothing else but to voice their readiness to support Pashinyan. Thus, it can be stated that on the way to power the main opposition member of Armenia so far quite successfully combines revolutionary rhetoric and mass protests with cabinet work on building the necessary configuration within the framework of formal legal restrictions.
And what about the future forecasts?
In general, as we see, the internal political crisis in Armenia has not come to the end. And after May 1, when the National Assembly of the Republic could not elect the Prime Minister, it came to a new turn. Thus, the frontal attack in the struggle for supreme power, undertaken during the rallies for the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, was replaced by complex consultations in which Nikol Pashinyan, the leader of the people's protests, was supported not only by his comrades in the Elk faction, but also by Tsarukyan bloc and Dashnaktsutyun ". Thus, in my opinion, now Pashinyan has two ways. The first is to go to the end by a formal way until the elections on May 8, where candidates will be nominated not by factions, but by one third of the entire deputy corps. In principle, this problem is solvable for Pashinyan, but his success is not predetermined. However, in the event that the May 1 events suddenly recure, the National Assembly automatically dissolves, and early elections will become ahead. And this way has its advantages. It is noteworthy that Pashinyan does not go beyond the legal framework and does not make a final bet on revolutionary expediency. However, here there are difficulties with the "keeping the face" of Yerevan strees. And this, perhaps, is the main disadvantage. The second way is the refusal of the cabinet routine in favor of the meeting elements, which makes Pashinyan much better. Against this background, the Republican game also raises questions. They can not find a support resource among the masses, at least in the short term. And then they have a great chance to lose what they have today. On the other hand, there is a great temptation to achieve serious guarantees. And the failure of the first vote is not only a test for Pashinyan, but an invitation to a new round of approvals in order to get more honorable conditions for leaving. In any case, without the "experts" in the military sphere, security, foreign policy, Pashinyan's new hypothetical office will not do. It is not excluded that Pashinyan will continue to combine revolutionary logic with the cabinet, and frightening, as it was before, the outgoing power, will return in one form or another to the negotiations. The risks are already painfully great. The destabilization of the situation is closely watched not only in Yerevan, but also in neighboring countries.
Let's talk about the reasons that prompted the major part of the Armenian society to go out to the streets.
The main reason is, of course, the attempt of the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan to take in the Prime ministerial post after turning Armenia from the presidential to a parliamentary Republic, while retaining the reins of government in his hands.
At the same time, it is also obvious that not all businessmen are ready to unequivocally take the side of the insurgent people, but they also do not mind getting certain benefits under the new government or even integrating into it. Therefore, the "velvet revolution" in Armenian, most likely, will not quickly end. There are opportunities for the complete demolition of the old system, for the development of preliminary agreements between the revolutionaries and apparatchiks and, it is possible, certain "return movements" in the event that today's "servants of the people" repeat the path of some of their predecessors. It is very important that Sargsyan resigned without resorting to violence, publicly admitting his injustice. After a while this circumstance can become a trump card in the hands, if not of Sargsyan himself, or of those who will not accept the new power.
What common and distinctive features do you see in "Armenian velvet" in comparison with other revolutions?
The Armenian "velvet revolution", on the whole, resembles the recent events in Georgia and Ukraine on many grounds. The same slogans of fighting corruption and injustice, populism, a splash of idealism and a naive belief that a radical renewal of power will bring Armenia closer to the high standards of governance and economics. However, if we look closely, we will see the principal difference in the Armenian events from the same Georgian and Ukrainian ones. This is the refusal of the Armenian protesters to position themselves as supporters of "civilizational choice", "escaping the empire", calls for a final choice between the European Union and the EEA. And this is a fundamentally important difference.
Many in Armenia, in particular Nikol Pashinyan himself, still see the shadow of Serzh Sargsyan behind the Republicans. Is there, in your opinion, at least a theoretical possibility of his "second coming" in the future?
I think that there is. And the main reason for this is the post-Soviet history of Armenia full of interesting features and paradoxes. Many of these features, of course, escaped even the attention of political scientists. Well, these features did not fit into the context of the usual measurement of Eurasian policy. These features did not fit into the format, which is very popular among experts and politicians, which explains the main conflicts in the post-Soviet space between Russia and the West. One such feature is the return to the great policy of the first President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, unexpected for many people, in 2008 after ten years of seclusion and scientific research. In the end, Pashinyan subjected himself to an imprisonment in the recent past for organizing mass riots, but not only quickly went out on amnesty, but also became a deputy. And today overthrew the authorities, those people who then gave him a term. Therefore, proceeding from the possibility of such career zigzags in Armenia, it is not worthwhile to hand over to the archive not only Serzh Sargsyan, but his colleagues in the RPA.
Pashinyan's opponents from the Republican Party of Armenia in the May 1 debates held at the Parliament made the main bet on the contradictoriness of his foreign policy views. Meanwhile, Pashinyan has already managed to demonstrate in his foreign policy predilections of transcendental pragmatism. How do you see, in this light, the future of the foreign policy of the new Armenia to you?
Armenia is a country quite successfully maneuvering between the centers of power. As a military and political ally of Russia, Yerevan became the first member of the EAEU to sign the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU. Karabakh is the only question concerning the post-Soviet space, according to which Russia and West interact, and not conflict. And the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is the only unrecognized state in the post-Soviet space, receiving material assistance from the US, whose President was recently received in the US Congress. Against this background, it is clearly worth mentioning Armenia's constructive relations with the main irritant of the West - the neighboring Iran. Turkey's membership in NATO at least severely narrows the North Atlantic window of opportunity, and Armenia's military ally Russia does not have a common border with it, having roughly equal economic impact with the EU. In such conditions, any Armenian government is doomed to search for geopolitical equilibrium, including the planned one. It is these conditions that induce Yerevan
maneuver, seek balance in relations with Moscow, Washington and Brussels. Yes,
Armenian politicians, especially the younger generation, are striving for Western technologies, social standards and openness. But they are not ready to give up the guarantees of Russia's security for the above-mentioned reasons. However, they are not ready, especially after the "four-day war" and territorial concessions on Karabakh. Another paradox is that the Karabakh conflict can become a factor in the reconciliation of various politicians inside Armenia and its new escalation will most likely unite the various layers of Armenian society, regardless of their personal relationship with Pashinyan or Sargsyan. Thus, your country, born of a protest, continues its difficult search for its place in a difficult region and rapidly changing world.
From the very beginning of the "velvet revolution" the Armenian authorities repeatedly appealed to the threat of the resumption of hostilities by Azerbaijan in the Karabakh direction, by motivating it with internal political instability in Armenia. We see that this did not happen. Share your scenarios on Karabakh taking into account the latest internal political transformations in Armenia.
Indeed, mass actions in neighboring Armenia, where the deepening of the "velvet" revolution is fraught with internal destabilization, is a kind of temptation for Baku. Here, it is appropriate to recall that the most ambitious violation of the ceasefire regime at that time was recorded in March 2008 after clashes following the results of the next presidential elections of police and protesters in Yerevan. Nevertheless, for the extremely uninterested in preserving the current status quo of Baku, there are limits to escalation. This is a commitment to the traditional course of pressure on all political vectors without rolling to war. This is still a continuing unity of views of the trio of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on the prospects for a Karabakh settlement, even despite confrontation over the Syrian and Ukrainian crises. Russia, the United States and France favor the implementation of the updated Madrid principles exclusively through negotiation. And to challenge all of this challenge means opposing ourselves to the West and Russia at the same time, to which Azerbaijan, in my opinion, is not ready. Moreover, Baku actively tries actively but neatly to balance all these centers of power in its favor. Iran "principles" does not support, however, insists on exclusively peaceful, compromise solution of the Karabakh conflict. The supportive of its strategic ally Ankara today is concentrated on Iraq and Syria and therefore is quite not interested in any escalation in the Transcaucasus if only because it is fraught with interference by Moscow and Washington. Thus, the most likely Karabakh story is the preservation of the status quo, which, however, does not rule out the constant attempts to break it.