ArmInfo.In an interview with ArmInfo, Deputy Chairman of Heritage Party Armen Martirosyan shares his views of the domestic political crisis in Armenia, its reasons, and possible ways out of the current situation. He also forecasts the most likely scenarios of the authorities’ behavior during the elections 2017 and in the post-election period.
What new things has the revolt of Sasna Tsrer brought to the domestic political agenda in Armenia?
The revolt of Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sassoon) has demonstrated that a certain part of the Armenian society lacks alternative methods of fight against outrage, crimes, robbery, large-scale corruption of the authorities and that the only way to settle these problems is to take arms. Fortunately, the necessary changes in Armenia are not made by means of weapons yet. The key task of Sasna Tsrer was to draw attention to the need for those changes through a wave of public discontent. I think now we are at the stage of formation of that wave. I cannot say whether the process will succeed or not. It depends on a number of factors. However, if the problems fail to receive a political solution at the current stage of political crisis, the country will inevitably enter the next stage, where the problems will be settled by means of arms. This may result in rather negative and undesirable consequences.
I think for everyone, not only for the authorities. The country is still in the phase of peaceful revolution, because it is more than obvious that with so many weapons Sasna Tsrer could have done armed actions aimed at shifting the power, if they wanted. The fact that the armed group abstained from that step and then set all the hostages free demonstrates that the group wanted to put an end to the popular revolt. Unfortunately, policemen died during Sasna Tsrer's actions, but a fair trial can arrive at a conclusion that this was not planned, but depended on the situation. So, I think one should not compare July 2016 to October 1999.
What ways out of the current political crisis do you see?
I see three ways. The first way is that the authorities should realize the active fight of the society and that the authorities and the society should start radical changes in Armenia. The second way is to launch an armed fight for changes, which can have rather negative consequences. This scenario is possible if the authorities leave no other way out for the people. And finally, the country can simply fail to reach the second scenario and can lose its statehood. The situation in Armenia has really changed after July 17. It is obvious that the stone thrown into the water by Sasna Tsrer will cause a big wave one way or another.
Do you see any link between the events in April 2016 and July 2016
Certainly, I do. The core of Sasna Tsrer consisted of war veterans, who spent their youth, health and life on the Artsakh liberation war. Now they see that the object of their selfless fight is endangered, and they cannot remain indifferent. Two out of the 5 demands of Sasna Tsrer concerned directly the Armenia-Artsakh issues.
So, it appears that not only radicalism but also the demand for radicalism have emerged in Armenia. Can the authorituies suppress these trends by sending the leaders and participants of protest movements to jail?
The authorities think that they suppress radical sentiments by taking such measures. In the reality, however, these measures only stimulate radicalism. World practice also demonstrates it. The top management of the country and the society live in parallel measurements and lack common grounds. This can result in even bigger radicalism, which is also a method of settling problems. For instance, the bloody French revolutions have eventually led to the present-day democratic France. It took the US two bloody wars for that - a war for independence and a war for liquidation of slavery.
So, bloodshed - despite all its disadvantages - is a slow path to self-purification, isn’t it?
I think, it is. This is one of the possible ways, though I campaign for peaceful revolution without any bloodshed, which is also possible.
Are there any chances for the authorities to realize the seriousness of the situation and to try to conduct the reforms themselves?
This would be an excellent scenario. However, by radically reforming the rotten system, the authorities would inevitably lose the power. Profound reforms will kill the incumbent authorities, because the reforms will liquidate the oligopolies that have lost the opportunity to prosper through monopolistic use of state resources. At the same time, this would result in gradual recovery of the state, because "upper" changes are always more effective than "lower" changes. However, unfortunately one cannot speak of such prospects amid the sadism of the authorities, who use special means and mass arrests against the peaceful demonstrators.
You were one of the people arrested for supporting Sasna Tsrer. What motivation do you think the authorities had when arresting people in July?
The authorities had only one motivation. They needed to behead the national movement that was going to seriously shatter the ruling regime. Thus, the authorities gradually isolated all those people, who were coordinating the movement. After that they dispersed the protesters via Police terror, breaking into houses and beating civilians. This was done to frighten the population. I have to admit that the terror had some effect as none of the political and public figures dared to take the responsibility and head the national movement after the mass arrests. However, I do not think that this effect will last long. The climate of hatred towards the authorities has struck its roots too deep and the attempts to frighten have indeed increased that hatred. I can say that the international community does not intend to bear such a behavior of the Armenian authorities any longer. Unlike Russia, the West has stood on guard of democratic processes in Armenia, pointing at incommensurable use of force by the police against protesters.
What can you say about the unprecedented inactivity of the political parties in Armenia?
Everything is clear with the ruling party, as the RPA is not a political force. It is just a ruling resource. As regards the inactivity of the remaining parties and the society’s attitude to them, it is the result of their previous activities. No brainwashing or propaganda can prevent the Armenian society from realizing the true essence of this or that political force or politician. People clearly see that the political parties do not defend their interests and that they address other issues in the parliament ensuring their own place in the sun. It is for this reason that the society welcomed on Khorenatsi Street only those people who felt its pulse. And there were not only politicians but also musicians and singers among them, like Yeghishe Petrosyan and Ruben Hakhverdyan.
How will the Republican Party of Armenia secure its victory in spring 2017 amid the large-scale political devaluation of almost all forces that maintained the illusion of competition during all previous general elections?
They will do it the way they have been doing so far. I think this illegal mechanism of power formation will work again and we will get illegitimate authorities again. They simply have no alternative to "establishment of quotas" and they are very good at it. The mayoral election in Hrazdan after the April war vividly demonstrated that the preferences and appetites of the incumbent authorities have not changed. Anyway, this is also proved by the logic of "preparations" for the local elections in 317 communities in September 2016. The logic has not changed.
Even though the Armenian society's attitude to the authorities is unambiguous, I do not think that the authorities include only clinical idiots, who are incapable of separating the wheat from the chaff. I do not think that these people fail to understand that ruling with such methods is fraught with serious consequences first of all for themselves…
I do not think so either. Otherwise, the incumbent authorities would fail to retain power for such a long time. In the meantime, the authorities have different goals, which have nothing to do with maintenance of statehood and civil society. They perfectly realize that by injustice and gross violation of human rights they stimulate outflow of the population and ruin the economy. They have destroyed small and medium-sized businesses, and now it is the turn of large business. Migration creates the best prerequisites for the authorities to retain grip on power, because migration prevents accumulation of discontent that could lead to explosion. The events in July demonstrated that such a policy is not flawless, because even under such conditions streets became crowded with the mass that can become critical. This is why it was dispersed by means of police terror. Therefore, the parliamentary elections in 2017 will inevitably be rigged and their results will be "legitimized" by means of police batons and crimes. Earlier the criminal world lived according to different laws and the cooperation of a criminal world representative with the police was considered to be a condemnable action, whereas now the situation has changed so much that the criminals and the police were together beating the residents of Sari Tagh district. All of us saw that. This is the best evidence of perversion of the entire system of values in Armenia. I do not know how well the authorities will swing the elections. Neither do I know whether we will reach regular elections or not. I can only say that the number of prerequisites for explosion of public discontent in Armenia is record high today. These prerequisites can only be doused by means of radical reforms in the entire system of administration.