First stage of velvet revolution: Armenia came to a dead end

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Baku, 23 January 2019 –

The recent parliament elections in Armenia havecaused widespread pessimism among experts about the political future of the country. They believe that Armenia is facing very serious problems. Even its diaspora organizations and patron states have provided little support in recent years. Pro-Armenian forces seem to demand that Armenia be independent as a state and develop using its internal potential. But in reality official Yerevan is not capable of doing it. There are a number of internal and external reasons behind this. In fact, there hasn`t been any state building process in Armenia. This country exists due to external donations. This has led to a deep crisis in Armenia. In addition, one of the most painful blows to the country is its isolation from regional projects. And the main reason behind this is that Armenia still continues to occupy Azerbaijan`s lands. Even if Armenia puts forward an ideal development plan, it will not be able to achieve progress unless it withdraws from Azerbaijan`s occupied territories. This article will try to throw light on this issue.

''Armenian solyanka'': uncertain political origin and systematic crisis

Nikol Pashinyan assumed power in Armenia to become the leader of this tiny state. January 14, 2019 marked the end of the victory of ''street democracy'' in Armenia. Some experts (mostly Armenians) consider this as the end of the first stage of the velvet revolution. They put forward this thesis with a hope that Armenia`s modernization will continue. But a look at the issue from a wider perspective the first stage looks much more interesting because, in fact, if there was a revolution, its first stage came to a dead end. The reason can be understood from experts` conclusions.

Interestingly, experts describe the formation of a new Armenian parliament as the end of the first stage. (see: Арег Галстян. "Постреволюционной" Армении требуется работа над ошибками / РСМД, 14 January, 2019). If it`s really so, then there are no doubts that the Armenian politics came to a dead end. Let`s look at the political and ideological views of political factions within the parliament.

There are currently three factions in the Armenian parliament. They are My Step Alliance led by Nikol Pashinyan, Prosperous Armenia of Gagik Tsarukyan and Way Out Alliance headed by Edmon Marukyan. The distribution of seats in the parliament is as follows: My Step Alliance – 88 seats, Prosperous Armenia – 26 seats, Way Out Alliance – 18 seats. For their political and ideological views, experts dubbed My Step Alliance as "solyanka”, a thick, spicy and sour Russian soup, with the main ingredient being either meat, fish, or mushrooms.

But it`s not clear whether Pashinyan`s ''political identity'' was made in ''the Russian kitchen'' or it`s a ''mixed American soup''. How can a party of unknown origin pursue a sovereign and independent statehood policy? Pashinyan and his party members enjoy the majority of seats in the parliament, which means that the vast part of the Armenian parliament is a ''mixed soup''.

Civil Accord party is its central element. This party`s political and ideological line is as fictitious as its name because there is no real institution of citizenship in Armenia. There are serious doubts about whether citizens truly realize the essence of citizenship. So accord among them is fictitious as well.

The other political party, Prosperous Armenia, is a liberal democratic faction, while Way Out Alliance is a center-right political party. From an ideological point of view, center-right views are close to different types of liberalism. So these two factions repeat each other. But it is not clear whether Prosperous Armenia of Tsarukyan completes Way Out Alliance of Marukyan. None of these parties pursues a political and ideological line that is compatible with their names. The reason is that in Armenia decisions are made not based on ideological principles, but on situational factors.

Decision-making: situational configuration or ideological uniqueness

In this context, Armenian expert A.Galstyan`s remarks draw interest. He writes: ''…In Armenian reality, decisions are made completely based on situational configuration, rather than party or ideological principles'' (see: previous source). The expert believes that it is the Armenian government and personally Nikol Pashinyan who are responsible (see: previous source). The vast majority of citizens trust him. Here the political and psychological circle closes: people trust Pashinyan, Pashinyan trusts the parliament, the parliament trusts Pashinyan. Is it something new, is it a democracy or is it an Armenian liberalism?!

Uncertainty is not limited to these factors. For years the Armenian political elite has been causing systematic problems. The only way out from crisis for the new government is to make qualitatively new changes to the internal and foreign policy. But is the incumbent government capable of doing it? Is Nikol Pashinyan capable of forming a truly effective political system? There are serious doubts about this because he has neither ideological base, nor political course, no leadership skills.

For example, will Armenia be able to find balance between distribution of powers between the government and parliament and between the government and the president. It`s very hard to believe. Pashinyan, a priori, did not want to share power with someone else. And his claims about the necessity of minimizing risks together with President Armen Sargsyan is mere formality because there is no favourable political environment and real mechanisms for this. The country needs to make serious changes to its constitution.

In addition, there should be a suitable socio-economic environment. But building it is a very complicated process. The situation is worsened by Armenia`s complete isolation from regional projects and its having access only to two points – to Iran and to Russia through Georgia. So all problems faced by Armenia have roots in Yerevan`s aggressive policy, namely its occupation of part of Azerbaijan`s lands. It`s impossible to keep the territory of your neighbor (which is several times stronger than Armenia) and at the same time to ensure socio-economic development.

Armenian politicians and experts forget about it. But it lies at the heart of all their problems and failures. It`s not a coincidence that according to statistics, Armenia is the weakest state in the South Caucasus. For example, in 2018, only 100 million dollars were invested in Armenia, while Georgia received 998 million dollars of investment. But it cannot be compared with billions of dollars invested in Azerbaijan.

Over the last years Armenia has managed to exist only due to external donations rather than its internal economic potential. Private individuals abroad have invested 9.8 billion dollars in Armenia in the past five years, while the Armenian government`s exports made 800 million dollars less (see previous source). How come a state it is?

As regards the activity of diaspora organizations, Armenia has been receiving less and less assistance from them in recent years. The U.S.-based diaspora organizations provide little assistance. The Armenian diaspora in Russia has its own terms. The U.S. government has also reduced assistance to just 6 million dollars in 2019.

Member-states of the Eurasian Union, of which Armenia is a member, put much more investments in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine, than in Armenia. This means that Armenia is not considered attractive even in the organization where it holds membership. In global education indexes, Armenia ranks much below Azerbaijan and Georgia. For example, Baku State University ranks 801st, Tbilisi State University 1001st, while Yerevan State University is 2746th (see previous source). All these problems, as experts point out, are caused by the systematic crisis in the country.

The first stage of the velvet revolution has therefore brought Armenia to a dead end. And it`s hard to believe that the incumbent Armenian leadership realizes this, which is evidenced by the aforementioned facts.

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