Ara Toranian, copresident of CCAF

Armenian Opposition: What Sincerity, What Credibility?

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By Ara Toranian

Yes, of course, the protest movement initiated almost a month ago by the opposition alliance is mobilizing people. Probably around 15,000 people participated in the May 9 demonstration, the high point of this agitation. The organizers counted at least the double, of course.

Be that as it may, the alliance of the forces of the old regime, set to music by the ARF of Armenia, does not overturn the table. Its mobilization capacity is at the same level as that which preceded the June 2021 legislative elections, which peaked on June 18 with the meeting in Republic Square with former President Robert Kocharyan, with around 40,000 participants.

The day before Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had hardly managed to do much better. This did not prevent him from largely winning the elections of June 21, 2021 and therefore from possessing the democratic legitimacy to govern. Demographically, the country is just the city center of Yerevan, haven of “Armenia which is doing well,” the one that votes largely for Kocharyan, the one that adapted best to the oligarchy and corruption and whose terraces were always full during the 44-day war…

The “legitimacy” of Pashinyan, the forces of the old regime have constantly clashed since the ceasefire agreement of November 9, 2020, a defeat from which they hoped to come back in force. They are doing it again today by demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister. As if he had not already challenged his mandate, less than ten months ago, with the triggering of new elections which themselves took place a year and a half after the vote of December 9, 2018! Would our protesters want legislative elections every three months? Do they not understand or do they pretend to ignore that the political cards have been reshuffled, that the people have decided, democratically, as it was necessary to do after the defeat for which they are largely responsible?

How can the opposition fail to take the slightest critical look at its own experience of power, and not accept the verdict of the ballot box, and to renew itself? Taking care not to appear too much at the head of the processions, Serge Sargsyan, and even worse Robert Kocharyan, had certainly never distinguished themselves by their democratic brilliance from the time when they exercised unchallenged power. But their current methods unfortunately do not show any paradigm shift.

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What is indeed striking in this movement which intends to turn the revolution upside down, mimicking with less spontaneity and talent the modus operandi of those who overthrew its leaders in 2018, is its passionate aspect, its self-satisfaction and the dearth of its proposals. Playing on all the springs of nationalism, the protesters do not shrink from any verbal violence, accusing the Prime Minister again and again of “treachery.” It is not a question for them of appealing to reason, but of playing on emotions, summoning the stereotypes of the patriotic register, with forceful revolutionary songs from the end of the 19th century and corresponding folk costumes, with the exception of the performances of singer Sirusho, Kocharyan’s daughter-in-law who plays Zartir Lao with her fist raised at the rostrum of the “Resistance”… What can we say about the sufficiency of this movement which, a thousand leagues from a Pashinyan beating his chest, ignores any questions, any responsibility in the defeat, in Armenia’s unpreparedness for war, in the frivolity shown by its leaders who stuffed themselves for thirty years during, while corruption gnawed from within the souls and minds of the country.

There would be so much to say about this deplorable mentality which left Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh without solution or defense against the enemy. Before criticizing those who rose up in 2018 against this moral decay, this political blindness, and who paid the price for his legacy at the time of the war, wouldn’t these former leaders be well advised to sweep in front of their door? To lower their heads before their people, to recognize their errors, their fault, their incompetence? Or, at the very least, to be forgotten?

Finally, what about the political content of the speeches of these “opponents,” who claim to want a government of national unity, while trampling on the honor of their adversary, who issue hollow and demagogic slogans on “security” after having blithely sold it off when they were in business, who appeal to this “solidarity” of which they made so much fun by crushing shamelessly the people who ended up driving them out, who advocate “stability”, after having tried to insist on firing on the crowd on March 1, 2008. These beautiful recipes of “strong Armenia” that they claim today, why did they not apply them when they had the opportunity, rather than digging the country’s grave?

Democracy takes work. Armenia, which certainly still has a lot of progress to make in this area, deserves better than this opposition, whose only claim to glory is allegiance to Putin… The nation is saturated with demagoguery. Which Armenian rejoices in defeat? Who doesn’t care about the return of the Pan-Turkism? Who is not worried about the isolation of the country, nor fears for its future? Politics is the art of the possible. The nation needs reflection, solution, dialogue. There are institutions for that, and in the first place Parliament. Instead of strengthening them and thereby participating in the consolidation of the state, some have again chosen destabilization by the street, on the grounds that they themselves have been thrown out by the street. A primary reflex that quickly ignores the fact that the despotism they exercised for 20 years offered no other alternative at the time than popular uprising. What was done. Fortunately. It’s time to realize that things have changed. And that the only worthwhile revolution requires a change of model, the passage from a destructive and sterile opposition, from a front of permanent refusal, to a constructive opposition endowed with a real capacity for proposal.

(Ara Toranian, 67, has been an activist for the Armenian cause since the 1980s. He is the founder of the newspaper Hay Baykar (Armenian Combat) and editor of the French magazine Les Nouvelles d’Armenie since 1994. He is also co-president of the Council Coordination of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF), with Mourad Papazian, since 2012.)

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