By Edmond Y. Azadian
Ever since the negotiations between the ruling coalition and the opposition came to a grinding halt, Armenia has entered into a period of domestic political stalemate. There was already a stalemate externally with its neighbors, with Karabagh’s unending negotiations going nowhere, the Protocols being shelved by the Turkish parliament and love/hate relationships continuing with Georgia.
Armenia’s cab drivers constitute the most sensitive political pulse of the country. As soon as one gets into a cab, the driver has a political speech ready for the passenger, beginning with the soaring food and fuel prices and ending with a diatribe against the oligarchs who are plundering the country.
But these days, cab drivers are ominously silent, possibly indicating the hopelessness of the situation. These worries seem to be concentrated on the option of finding a country which can accept their children for education or job opportunities. When the government coalition and the opposition decided to begin several rounds of negotiations, the opposition was losing steam and the government had run out of alternatives. They both needed each other. Although negotiations were supposed to be secret, both sides were leaking positive stories regarding the developments.
The opposition was running out of steam because of the defections of some of its elite members who were joining the Free Democrats movement, whose platform had yet to be defined. On the opposite end, more radical elements, which favored a violent overthrow of the government, were disillusioned with opposition leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s recent moderate and rational approach.
On the other hand, the government coalition was running into disarray, after the defection of the ARF and rising tensions between President Serge Sargisian’s Republican Party and former President Robert Kocharian’s Prosperous Armenia Party. Although the latter’s leader, Gagik Zaroukian, had signed an agreement to participate jointly in the upcoming elections, other leaders indicated otherwise — that the party may run on its own ticket.