National security expert Hrachya Arzumanyan in his interview with ArmInfo comments on the recent domestic political developments in Armenia. He shares his vision of the situation, the need to immediately implement a number of steps towards a radical reform of the judiciary, legislative and executive authorities, and the national security system. Lists possible challenges and threats in the way of the new Government.
Do you consider it possible to assess the activities of the new government today and, why not, to share the forecast or the versions of its upcoming steps?
At first view, the events in Armenia have reached their threshold and it is premature to predict the fundamentally new changes before the early elections. The most powerful part of the state machine that allows to achieve rapid changes, the executive branch of power, is controlled by Nikol Pashinyan. And the fact that the levers of the machine were in young hands is either good and bad at the same time. Well, since the new generation, grown up on computer games, can quickly master the skills of working with the "new game". It's bad that they do not represent the work of the state apparatus so far and it is extremely important to realize that its main elements are people. As a consequence, the desire to improve the efficiency of the public administration system is a complex social, and not just a technological, problem. New ministers' being young carries with them another potential threat, when the new team has a desire to improve the quality of the state machine qualitatively, trying to make it perform functions for which it has not yet been adapted. We must understand that people who work in the state system are not ready for such acceleration, first of all. It takes time for the state apparatus to adapt and be able to work in a new technological environment, to which young people are accustomed.
To continue the issue... You spoke about the problems in the sphere of ensuring the national security of two Armenian Rrepublics for a long time. Have they found reflection in the unfolding public discussion of the newly appointed Secretary of the Security Council with the ex-Minister of Defense?
I do not think so. In my opinion, this discussion was inappropriate when both sides were wrong - each in its own way, but I am interested in the Secretary of the Security Council, and not the ex-Minister of Defense. How strange it does not sound, but the newly appointed Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan found himself in a qualitatively more complicated situation than Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The latter inherited the functioning apparatus of the executive power, which was created and polished for decades, including the same by the Civil Service of Armenia. The apparatus of the Security Council of Armenia was actually destroyed during the last decades. In 1996-97, created in the years of Artsakh war by Ashot Manucharyan and the perfectly functioning staff of the Security Council, was dismantled because of disagreement with the forthcoming decisions of Levon Ter-Petrosyan on Artsakh. Arthur Baghdasaryan's attempt to build in 2008 the Security Council apparatus on the basis of a western, more complex and adequate security environment, philosophy and approaches, was also curtailed based on political, and not at all state, and strategic considerations. As a result, after the unfolding velvet revolution, the apparatus of the Armenian Security Council should be created practically from scratch. And this is a rather specific type of activity, requiring holistic thinking, experience and special competencies. Yes, there are cadres in the General Staff of the RA Armed Forces, who are able to think systematically and develop security concepts, but there are very few of them, and they are heavily overloaded. We have a large personnel hunger in a very specific sphere, in which it is impossible to open the doors widely. And this is more than a serious challenge, requiring solutions - today, now. The new Secretary of the Security Council will have to solve many complex tasks, form responses to challenges and threats, many of which have not yet been demonstrated, and simultaneously create an apparatus. This is an extremely complex and responsible activity. Therefore, I think Armen Grigoryan is not right when he allows himself to spend time on such discussions with the past. This is too big a luxury. To date, after the extremely unsuccessful constitutional reform in the national security issues, we have a severely curtailed Security Council, its secretary, but by no means an apparatus. An extremely worrisome situation and Armen Grigoryan must immediately start working, attracting the potential of the whole Armenians. We must understand that there is little time for this and Armenia has extremely limited opportunities to influence the processes in the region.
The case of Sasna Tsrer and other political prisoners once again demonstrated the suspicion and dependence of the judicial system on the executive branch. The system was simply unable to carry out its own functions without calls from the offices and bribes. How do you see the prospects for resolving this crisis?
In my opinion, this crisis is in the initial stage of its resolution, in any case its beginning has already been laid. The confrontation associated with the problem of self-determination of the judicial branch of power is already unfolding, and it is no less dramatic than the process of power change in Armenia. However, those who have fallen into almost complete dependence, turned into an instrument in the hands of the executive branch, the judiciary, now have a unique chance of self-determination when it takes its first steps on the long road to becoming a truly independent branch of government. To do this, it must use the new executive power's removal from the control of judicial power and get out of political struggle, leave politics. For this to happen, the judicial branch of power, its corps must transgress through personal interests and take the path of expressing and defending the interests of their institutions. It is the judiciary, not the executive, that should show the will to such self-determination. The first step on this path would be the decisions on the issue of political prisoners, expected by the Armenian society. And, taking this step, the judiciary could appeal not only to the letter, but also to the spirit of the law, turning, if necessary, to the procedure of pardoning, amnesty. I hope that there are people in the Armenian judicial system who are capable of comprehending and protecting corporate, not just personal interests. The executive power in the person of Nikol Pashinyan has already declared his readiness to follow the path of giving the judiciary time for self-determination. However, given the indefinite-term hunger strike by Garegin Chugaszian, the time for judicial power is limited and the window of opportunities is extremely narrow.
In this regard, the hunger strike of the leader of the "Founding Parliament" seems to be a phenomenon aimed not just at releasing political prisoners, but, in fact, reforming the vicious judicial system ...
The motives for a hunger strike voiced by Garegin Chugaszyan, in a recent interview, are by no means confined to calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners. The goal of the hunger strike is to attract public attention to the need for a radical reform of the judiciary as an institution. We must understand that to break the resistance of the judiciary, focusing solely on the force of law and the law will not work. Chugaszyan sees the need to supplement the letter and force of law - the political force and pressure of society, as it was in parliament in early May. In other words, the methods used to overcome the resistance of the representative branch of power in the person of the RPA should be applied to overcome the resistance of the judiciary. To this end, it is necessary for the judges to know that the times have changed and they are faced with the choice of leaving or moving to the side of society with a chance for the future. In the end, as Garegin Chugaszyan says, 95% of manifestations of systemic corruption and other crimes in the judicial system are carried by only 5% of its representatives. It is impossible to completely dismantle the judicial system, but you can quickly solve the problem of the notorious 5% and compromise with the rest. In my opinion, the hunger strike of Chugaszyan is aimed precisely at implementing this approach. Nevertheless, in my opinion, an indispensable condition for such a compromise is the awareness of the need for strict pressure from the public to maintain the efficiency of the judicial system, until the final change of cadres and, accordingly, psychology. And these are decades. And one more important consideration: Garegin Chugaszyan, with his hunger-fastened demands, brings the executive power and society as a whole to the bottom, realizing the need to speed up early elections. It is elections that will give the society an opportunity to take control of the representative power and having two branches of power already in place, it will have an opportunity to significantly increase pressure on the judiciary by creating the necessary prerequisites for building a truly independent judiciary in Armenia.
We see how Republicans, with the support of the media they finance, are launching a powerful campaign to blacken the government of Nikol Pashinyan. Criticized as the appointment itself, and all - made and even not taken steps. On whom, in addition to the thirsting changes in the conscious part of Armenian society, can the new power be based on a struggle that is stubbornly resisting the corrupt past?
Nikol Pashinyan's struggle with the RPA, still controlling the representative and judicial power, is just unfolding. Including, and in the information space. In this struggle Pashinyan, in my opinion, really needs the support and advice of experienced and authoritative politicians, diplomats, analysts and military. I am convinced that those who have such a potential and experience in Armenia and the Armenians are. Quite a few of them are encouraged by the window of opportunity that has been opened and are ready to help the new Government.