131-1: Who suffers the blow or the dark future of Vartan Oskanian

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Baku, October 24 –

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) won the May 6 parliamentary elections securing the majority of seats. A day after the elections opposition parties, including Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), a member of the coalition government, presented protocols and video material on falsification of the voting to the Central Election Commission.

But nothing changed. As usual the ruling party won the elections and earned the right to form the government alone. This marked fundamental changes in dynamism of Armenia’s domestic policy. The PAP, the second largest party, remained outside the government and found itself in opposition.

Before the parliamentary elections Armenia’s former minister of foreign affairs Vartan Oskanian joined the PAP and gained a parliamentary seat. Serzh Sargsyan, who was elected the president on February 19, 2008, immediately dismissed him from his post. Oskanian, who remained unnoticed for a long time, established the Civilitas Foundation, and started to show interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, and political and economic issues. He began to openly speak against the Sargsyan regime. Oskanian was insistently saying that Sargsyan’s stance towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was unacceptable, and was publicly speaking of weak points in it. Under these circumstances, Oskanian’s representation in the parliament on the list of the second largest party would have certainly concerned the ruling party. At the same time, Oskanian began to gain popularity as an experienced politician enjoying enough reputation and partners within the PAP.

Therefore the government launched financial inspections at the Civilitas Foundation with the aim of killing two birds with one stone – to weaken the PAP and undermine Oskanian`s political reputation. As a result of the inspections carried out by the National Security Service a criminal investigation was launched into “money laundering” at the Foundation.

After the launch of the investigation chairman of the PAP oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan voiced his support of Oskanian. His opinion was echoed by several political parties representing the opposition. Meanwhile, on September 28, ambassadors of member states of the European Union, the United States and Brazil to Armenia met with Oskanian at the headquarters of the Civilitas Foundation, and offered their support. Similar statements were given by various international organizations too. But the government did not take a step back in this situation and insistently involved Oskanian in the investigation. Oskanian, in turn, used his parliamentary immunity and refused to give testimony. Amid the debates surrounding the Oskanian case, the authorities raised the issue of abolishment of his parliamentary immunity requested by the Prosecutor General. At first sight, this issue against Oskanian is a well-considered sabotage against the PAP and its leader Gagik Tsarukyan. Tsarukyan is the leading oligarch politician in Armenia, who will most probably run for presidency at the next year`s elections. Tsarukyan is especially popular among the country’s poor people for his charity. In comparison with other party leaders Tsarukyan is a potential rival of Serzh Sargsyan.

The leader of the Armenian National Movement, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, is old, and has not been active on the political scene after the last parliamentary elections. The leader of the People’s Party of Armenia, Stepan Demirchyan, is not a serious rival as well. Although Vahan Hovannesyan, a member of the Dashnaktsutyun, is a charismatic person, this party enjoys poor support by Armenians. Dashnaktsutyun does not have big prestige on the Armenian political scene as it popularizes radical nationalist values.

Some analysts in Armenia say that Russia is pursuing its own interests in the Oskanian case because he expressed concern - after being dismissed from his post and joining the opposition - over Russia’s hegemony in the Armenian political, economic and security issues. High-level political circles, who do not want to be represented in the PAP and the parliament, are trying to eliminate this party and cause dissension within it. The issue of Oskanian was discussed at the Armenian parliament on October 2, and his parliamentary immunity was abolished.

Oskanian, who announced that he will run for presidency in 2013, was pushed aside from Armenia`s socio-political life. He has already been involved in the investigation and questioned by the national Security Service.

The Armenian authorities will most probably stall on the Oskanian case until the presidential elections next year and then drop the investigation in order not to trigger tension in the country`s socio-political life and provoke more criticism from European states.

The ruling party can bring the Oskanian case to the forefront of public attention in 2013 to ensure that the country`s economic, social and political problems pale into insignificance. This can provoke protests by supporters of the PAP and Oskanian. However, the authorities believe that given the fact that there are deep contradictions within the opposition the country`s population will hardly seriously react to these protests.

Dr. Hatam Jabbarlı

Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

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