ArmInfo. Researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Andrei Areshev in an interview with ArmInfo forecasts the most likely outcome of the elections to the National Assembly of Armenia scheduled for December 9. He comments on the chances of various political forces, shares the Russian perception of Armenia's internal political arena. He talks about the need for changes in the Russian policy towards the ruling elites in the post-Soviet space.
“My Step” bloc's victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia on December 9 is beyond doubt. And which parties, in your opinion, are the most likely contenders for the second and third places? Is it possible that a fourth force will enter into parliament?
First of all, I would like to note that there is a direct connection between the upcoming elections and the velvet revolution in Armenia. It was the events of April-May 2018 that brought Nikol Pashinyan to the prime minister’s position and consequently, it was he who has dictated the political agenda in Armenia. And the results of the elections to Yerevan Council of Elders demonstrated that popularity of Pashinyan and all the forces and groups consolidated in his “My Step” bloc is still quite high.
Thus, there can be no doubt who will take the first place on December 9. The electoral support of "My step" bloc ranges between 60-70%. In this light, the ruling regime has no need to use the administrative resource, moreover falsify the elections.
At the same time, in contrast to the first place, there is still intrigue who will take the second and third places. And, in my opinion, despite all its hastiness, the parliamentary election campaign in Armenia can still spring many surprises, in a certain way, capable of influencing the rating of the “My Step” bloc and its main opponents. Obviously, “Prosperous Armenia” led by Gagik Tsarukyan has significant resources to take the second place, which are first of all reflected in specific projects and actions. Consequently, I suppose that it will be this very party that will take the second place in the elections, although various attempts to manipulate public opinion in regard of ''Prosperous Armenia'' will be made.
There is also a new, quite radical and assertive political force in Armenia - the Sasna Tsrer party. It is noteworthy that this force in foreign policy puts forward, if not extremist, then quite radical and harsh slogans. Moreover, these slogans are often quite contradictory. Of course, in all this, in my opinion, there is enough of the desire to attract public attention and win support. Perhaps, this is done with the aim of overstretching a part of the electorate, which traditionally votes, for example, for the Dashnaktsutyun party. Nevertheless, it seems to me that in any case, flirting with radical sentiments in the post-Soviet space did not lead anyone to the good. And I had said this with reference to the former authorities of Armenia as well. We can already see how representatives of the Sasna Tsrer declare that the new parliament can survive for a maximum of one and a half to two years. As far as I understand their logic, this time is needed for some regular constitutional reforms.
That is, already today “Sasna Tsrer” makes a serious claim for the first place?
I think yes. This is noticeable at least by a rather sharp response from Nikol Pashinyan. And today, in my opinion, there are many scenarios for the development of further events in Armenia, including quite extreme ones. At the same time, it seems to me, the realization of such scenarios is not in Armenia's interests, given that the country faces a rather complicated, rather turbulent period.
I can assume that after December 9 this turbulence will not end, as the rather complex process of forming a new, already full-fledged government will begin. Taking into account the future reshuffle in Nikol Pashinyan's party, which will now be represented in the parliament, difficulties will arise again with the selection of qualified personnel. And judging by the rather negative public reaction to the appointment of the former first deputy police head, Hunan Poghosyan, as governor of Syunik, shocks and discontent can be expected in the event of the possible involvement of former members of the Republican Party in the ruling team.
At the same time Republicans have radically changed their own identity, serious changes have taken place within the party and now it quite harshly opposes Pashinyan pointing at real existing problems as well. I can not tell how many chances RPA has to overcome the 5% threshold, however in case of rather competent administration they are still able to mobilize resources remained after being in power for 20 years.
In other words, in your assessment, only three, four forces, mentioned by you have real chances to enter parliament?
I think yes. The remaining political structures are still little known in Armenia. I am quite doubtful related to ARFD, the remaining parties can get only insignificant votes. Especially against the background that the intentions of the new government to reform the Electoral Code remained intentions, and the upcoming elections will be held according to the old Electoral Code with its preferential voting system. In this light, we understand that, especially in the regions, representatives of the Republican Party of Armenia and some other parties may enter the parliament via the preference lists.
In your opinion, does the so-called radicalism of “Sasna Tsrer”, particularly in foreign policy, aimed at attracting the anti-Russian part of the Armenian electorate, differ much from Nikol Pashinyan’s stance, when he was an opposition lawmaker? Prior to coming to power Pashinyan also called for Armenia’s withdrawal from the EAEU, the CSTO, and a radical revision of relations with Russia. And the stance of Sasna Tsrer may change the same way in case of taking the power ...
It is impossible to determine the number of people critical of Russia today, however, such people in Armenia, of course, exist. And the upcoming parliamentary elections in this sense will certainly become a definite test. As for the changes in Pashinyan’s rhetoric before and after coming to power, we are well aware that this is not the only example of the conditional evolution of politicians in the post-Soviet space.
It's one thing when you are an editor of an opposition newspaper or an opposition politician, and quite another when you are the head of government, who has serious powers under the new Constitution. A person is obliged to solve serious, strategic issues, including in terms of foreign policy, ensuring national security and the country's defense capability, All of these sectors are traditionally associated in Armenia with close cooperation with Russia. This issue, by the way, was not brought into question either by the first President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, or by his successors, with whom Nikol Pashinyan so actively fought at different stages of his political career.
I would refrain from judging today the future actions and the policy pursued by Sasna Tsrer in the event of a hypothetical serious entry into power. I can only express my concerns that Sasna Tsrer is not purely an Armenian political and technological project.
Pashinyan has been and is still accused of being pro-Western, but we see that this fact has so far had no negative impact on the level of relations with Russia...
Certainly, this is true. Moreover, not only him, but also some other representatives of the current authorities have been accused. However, in the case of Sasna Tsrer, the level of their radicalism is still scary. In case of Pashinyan there was no such radicalism.
In any country of the post-Soviet space and not only the Kremlin traditionally stakes on the ruling elite, usually on one top figure. Meanwhile, using the example of Armenia as a minimum, we witnessed the ineffectiveness of such a policy. Today, the RPA is somewhere at the bottom of the political arena, and with the new Armenian government, Russia today is forming bridges. In your opinion, isn’t it a necessity for Russia to adopt the Western model - cooperation with the entire spectrum of political and social forces in its relations, at least with the countries of the former USSR?
Such a change of approach in foreign policy in the post-Soviet space is being seriously discussed in Russia at various levels. I personally support the approach you have mentioned. And in the scope of my modest capacities I am trying to bring it to life. However, there is a certain inertia in the approaches and personal ties, being established for decades. And on the most vivid Ukrainian example we can see how the existing approach ceases to work, and Russia needs to establish contacts with all the representatives of political arena.
However, I should state that such contacts in fact were established with the same Nikol Pashinyan, when he was a member of parliament. It seems to me that it is time for Russia to stop learning from its mistakes and move on to a more active and integrated policy in this regard. I think that at the level of the expert community of the Caucasian study platforms existing in Russia there is undoubtedly an awareness of this need. However it is completely different question what conclusions will be drawn from this at the political level.