The leader of the Armenian National Congress Levon Ter-Petrosyan announced in one of his press conferences that if Robert Kocharyan returns to politics, in some conditions they may even be allies. At that time, either in 2008 or in 2009, it was taken as a joke, and any similar suggestion was taken as a joke till 2012, especially that the Congress used the following measurement “criticism against the Congress is grist to Kocharyan’s mill”. (Now the scale of the Congress has changed. Now criticism against the Congress is grist to Serzh Sargsyan’s mill. Formerly the Congress explained its steps by the intention of preventing Kocharyan’s return, now the removal of Serzh Sargsyan.)
Now that the Congress cooperates with the Prosperous Armenia Party, suggestions on possible cooperation of Ter-Petrosyan and Kocharyan are not taken as a joke any more. However, this situation has a long history, full of complications and ups and downs.
The point is that twenty years of independence is the history of Ter-Petrosyan – Kocharyan relationship. They have a shared history and cannot do without each other.
Everything began in Karabakh in 1990 where the parliament was formed by the ARF Dashnaktsutyun, while in Armenia the All-Armenian Movement led by Levon Ter-Petrosyan came to power. The relations between Armenia and NKR were not smooth. Ter-Petrosyan wanted to change the government in Karabakh, and different methods were used against the NKR government, including sanctions on material resources. At that time, the State Defense Committee was set up in Karabakh and Kocharyan was appointed as its head. During the war the resources were centered at the SDC, hence isolating the parliament (ARF Dashnaktsutyun in NKR had problems with the central bodies of ARF D). However, the SDC was not government, and with the help of Yerevan Robert Kocharyan “took” the parliament as well, first he got the post of speaker, then NKR president.
After the presidential election in 1996 Armenia was in crisis. Levon Ter-Petrosyan appointed Armen Sargsyan as prime minister to relieve tension. However, the law enforcement bodies and the army which had a crucial role in keeping Ter-Petrosyan in government was the actual political and economic government.
In this situation, Levon Ter-Petrosyan again recalled Robert Kocharyan and appointed him as prime minister in 1997. Kocharyan was supposed to end military-feudal impunity and get the country together. Afterwards, Levon Ter-Petrosyan who was either tired or reluctant to be an illegitimate president wrote his famous article on war and peace and resigned “under the pressure of the notorious forces”. Kocharyan became president with the help of the “notorious forces”.
It should be noted that Kocharyan successfully completed the “mission” of eliminating the military-feudal impunity with the help of Vazgen Sargsyan and Karen Demirchyan who won the parliamentary elections and became prime minister and speaker respectively.
After October 27 Levon Ter-Petrosyan called for unification around Robert Kocharyan. The country was in crisis, and it was the only step that would help to protect the country from further tremor, and Kocharyan, out of the intention of relieving tension but actually displaying weakness, appointed people to key positions who were unable to take more or less constructive steps.
This situation continues for 6 months, then Kocharyan set to form the system which was later baptized “cleptocracy” by Ter-Petrosyan. This system was certainly more “progressive” than Ter-Petrosyan’s “cleptocracy” with its low-level authoritarianism, non-professional officials and impunity of military-feudal oligarchy and chaos. Unlike Ter-Petrosyan’s “cleptocracy” Kocharyan’s criminal-oligarchic state had crisp and clear rules of the game, it was more predictable and obeyed some “law”.
Generally, unlike the authoritarian system the criminal order presupposes “rule of law” and is hence more viable and firm, almost invincible, as the decade of Kocharyan’s administration proved. It is not accidental that Kocharyan set to change the Constitution because he realized the power of law for ensuring the security of the criminal oligarchic system and neutralization of the demands of the society. The Constitution was used as a tool against the legal demands of the society.
Levon Ter-Petrosyan did not make a single political speech during Kocharyan’s tenure. He returned on the eve of the presidential election of 2008 when Kocharyan had to leave. He built his campaign on sharp criticism of Kocharyan’s system and after the presidential election Kocharyan’s regime was blamed for the post-election murders and violence on March 1.
Ter-Petrosyan’s rhetoric in the next four years proceeded along this background. The Congress even collected signatures to apply to the Court of the Hague against Kocharyan. On the one hand, this rhetoric allowed entering into a dialogue with Serzh Sargsyan to reach some agreement with him, and on the other hand the impression was that Ter-Petrosyan was trying to get Kocharyan back to the arena which he succeeded every now and then. One can remember Kocharyan’s bursts with some very vulgar answers to Ter-Petrosyan.
The last case was especially notable when Levon Ter-Petrosyan called Kocharyan a sunken ship, and the latter reminded Ter-Petrosyan that he is a winner president, while Ter-Petrosyan is a loser president.
Most probably, Ter-Petrosyan and Serzh Sargsyan did not reach any agreement, and the first president sharply changed the direction. He started cooperation with the PAP for a declared goal of achieving together the impeachment of Serzh Sargsyan and change of government. The Congress says if they win majority, they will start the process, if not, they will do it with other forces. The Congress will not win majority. Moreover, it may lose the election. However, if it is elected to parliament, it will not be able to do anything without the PAP.
Hence, the first and second, the loser and winner presidents of Armenia cannot do without each other in the political sphere. One must lose and the other must win. In fact, this is the scheme of the home political struggle in the past 20 years. As to the third, the first two have never taken him seriously, keeping him under constant blackmail in political, economic and other aspects, for their own goals. There is an opinion that both need the third one. Serzh Sargsyan himself enabled it. He could not return to the military-feudal authoritarianism and he could not keep the criminal and oligarchic system where he has an “equal” status with everyone and is not perceived as the head of the hierarchy. His only chance is to shape a different system which, according to the authoritarian and criminal-oligarchic chain, would be the constitutional state, the road which most modern constitutional states have passed. However, Serzh Sargsyan missed that chance.