By Edmond Y. Azadian
Last May, a global sex scandal broke out when the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Straus-Kahn was arrested on charges of raping a hotel maid in New York. The charges were dropped later but Straus-Kahn, who had been considered the front-runner in the French presidential election, saw his career collapse. It is hard to prove collusion by his opponent, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but he was definitely the beneficiary of the scandal for a while when Straus-Kahn’s reputation was damaged. That was until another — the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande — caught up with Sarkozy and won the race.
A similar political scandal is brewing in Armenia, however, not within a sexual context, but rather regarding financial accountability. It has all the hallmarks of political motivation. Some even call it a witch-hunt, given the timing and the process the government has chosen.
The target once again is a prominent statesman, namely the former Foreign Minister of Armenia Vartan Oskanian, who has been accused of money laundering. After 10 years of service, when Oskanian retired from the position of the foreign minister, he continued to remain visible through his non-governmental organization, Civilitas Foundation. But last May’s parliamentary election propelled him into the limelight when Oskanian emerged as a leading figure when the Prosperous Armenia Party parted from the ruling coalition.
Finally, the other shoe was dropped and the party decided to continue its independent course. Of course, the political pundits see the shrewd political tactician, former President Robert Kocharian, behind all these maneuverings to set the stage for his comeback or to promote a surrogate.
As long as the party was symbolized by the opulent lifestyle of its founder Gagik Zaroukian it was not considered a serious political asset, but Oskanian’s emergence as the second man in command changed the political complexion of the party. Therefore, it became apparent that if not Kocharian then Oskanian would be facing Serge Sargisian as a contender during next year’s presidential election. That perception was enough to mark him as a target in the presidential race. Hence, the accusation of money laundering to tarnish his reputation by the election time. Some people believe the inspiration for the accusation comes from the Ukraine, where one-time presidential contender and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (nee Grigyan) was convicted to a seven-year prison term for abusing her office in brokering a gas deal with Russia in 2009.