Interview with French-Armenian political scientist Gaidz Minassian
The proceedings against former foreign minister of Armenia Vartan Oskanian who is suspected of money laundering are actively discussed in Armenia. What is the reason?
This is a senseless step aimed at harming Vartan Oskanian or Robert Kocharyan which is done right after the parliamentary elections, several months before the presidential elections and immediately after Hillary Clinton’s visit. This is unacceptable because we know that Vartan Oskanian is a respectable and intelligent person and I have no idea why they decided to block his way and pretend fighting corruption while there are many political figures and oligarchs who needed to be addressed instead. The only reason, in my opinion, is that Vartan Oskanian could play some role in the presidential elections.
There are opinions that the NSS is not “indifferent” towards former foreign ministers of Armenia. Alik Arzumanyan was also persecuted some years ago. Can this fact impact Armenia’s reputation?
I think the proceedings against Arzumanyan and Oskanian are not interrelated. It will certainly impact Armenia’s reputation because this person is famous as a minister and political figure and the world will urge Armenia to leave him alone. And if there is someone clean, that person is Vartan Oskanian.
Do you see any link between the upcoming presidential elections and Vartan Oskanian’s case?
They are interrelated because we know that either Vartan Oskanian will run, which I don’t believe will happen, or Robert Kocharyan will little by little return to politics using his levers, friends, relatives, for example, Vartan Oskanian or Gagik Tsarukyan or the PAP. But touching Vartan Oskanian 7-8 months before the elections means touching that political wave.
Hillary Clinton’s visit to Armenia made it clear that the West will support Serzh Sargsyan for president. Why did the West choose Serzh Sargsyan?
The West knows that Serzh Sargsyan is clever and wants peace, but it wants a Western peace: ratification of protocols with Turkey, settlement of the Karabakh status etc. The West has studied the political arena and saw two-three people – Robert Kocharyan, who is closer to Putin so he could never be their candidate or Levon Ter-Petrosyan who is exhausted and even his reputation is still not sufficient. The Americans know that Ter-Petrosyan can’t win, so only Serzh Sargsyan is left. He has shown his ability to cooperate, communicate, let others do everything with himself, especially considering that the American priority is to have the Armenia-Turkey protocols signed. The U.S. wants to show that if Russia supports a candidate, they have their own candidate. Armenia is the only country in the region where Russia can extend its influence, but tomorrow’s president of Armenia is important – Serzh Sargsyan – to the West, or Robert Kocharyan – to Russia? This is a bit complicated approach because it is deep, complex and confused because we can see that today’s government of Armenia is pro-Russian, Serzh Sargsyan is close with Russia’s authorities, Nalbandyan is even closer, he is like the office of the Russia foreign ministry in Armenia.
Gaidz, why is there no alternative to the old candidates? Why isn’t it allowed to create a new one?
It is not allowed because two generations are fighting in Armenia. The old generation is represented by Robert, Serzh, Vahan Hovhannisyan and others, and the new generation does not have new figures either, some vice-ministers, some MPs, no one important. This fight is not competitive, so we still have those who were in politics 20 years ago. Today’s political issue is this.
How will transition take place?
I can see two options. The first is the peaceful passage. I mean changes through reforms aiming at the European system and democracy, human rights etc. which will reveal new figures in the course of time.
The second is the way accompanied with shocks and home pressure, war with Azerbaijan. People are tired of promises. When they leave Armenia, it does not mean that they don’t love their country, but they don’t love the authorities and they see no hope in today’s Armenia. They either leave, or keep silence.