Checkmate: How Serzh Sargsyan Cornered His Foes – and Won

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It would be in the best interest of the Armenia’s opposition to vote “Yes” on the upcoming referendum on the Armenian constitution. But, they are campaigning against the proposed reforms and it’s because President Serzh Sargsyan has put them in a pickle they can’t escape.

On December 6, Armenians will decide whether to accept constitutional reforms which would turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic. Whatever the result of the referendum, President Serzh Sargsyan wins.

The reforms are the result of an ad hoc commission created by Sargsyan to explore the possibility of reforming the constitution to change the current semi-presidential system to a parliamentary one. The proposed changes have led to nationwide campaigns for and against the reforms. Opponents have accused Sargsyan of making a move to circumvent presidential term limits and serve as prime minister, an assertion with no factual basis.

Actually, it was the opposition in Armenia which has called for a parliamentary system for years.  The current system vests a great deal of power in just one person: the president. That’s why it was surprising when President Sargsyan suddenly chose to propose a system of government which, in future elections, could lead to his Republican Party losing the power they now enjoy. The point that underlies the issue is that the current system is stacked in the Republican Party’s favor as the incumbent and a systemic change opens up the possibility for others to benefit, even if it’s not guaranteed. Presumably, this would be favorable for opposition groups.

In reality, reforming the Armenian constitution offers Sargsyan an opportunity to promote his own status and legacy while putting his foes in a pickle. Using their obsession with attacking him at every turn to his advantage, he placed a tempting offer on the table: would they look past their obstinate enmity toward him and accomplish, if imperfectly, their goal of changing a system which they hate or, would they scuttle their own ship for the sake of proving a point? They chose the latter – but why?

When he proposed the constitutional reforms, Sargsyan cornered his opponents: if they vote “Yes,” which is in their best interest, they support the proposal of their enemy, thus cementing his legacy as the leader who reformed Armenia’s government and further moved the country toward democracy; if they vote “No,” Sargsyan wins again because he can claim that his opponents support maintaining the same status quo which they have vitriolically lambasted throughout his tenure as president.

There isn’t much question that a parliamentary system itself is more conducive to promoting an equitable system of representation; that’s why it’s befuddling why the opposition would come out against it. Their evaluation of the the consequences of the reform, if it were to pass, seems painfully short-sighted and likely based on their current inability to form any viable coalition. If they were able to form such a coalition in the new system, they could conceivably unseat the Republican Party and appoint their own prime minister.

The main conclusion one can draw from the opposition’s decision is that nobody among them feels confident enough in their ability to unseat the Republican Party, even in a parliamentary system. The question is if they feel any more confident securing the power they seek in the current system. Based on their currently dismal state, it’s hard to see that they might. And this may be why the opposition is against the constitutional reforms: seeing no way to beat the Republican Party in the near future, opposing the referendum was the only choice that they had to save face and maintain a degree of relevance.

Ultimately, in order for the Republican Party to maintain the status quo, a system which has served them well and will likely continue to do so, they have to do nothing. And, paradoxically, the opposition is foregoing the one major opportunity they have had in years to shake up the system they have incessantly criticized.

Status quo or parliamentary system, “yes” or “no,” one person wins in either case. Checkmate, Sargsyan.

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About Author

William Bairamian

William is the publisher and editor of The Armenite. His years in politics led him to the fourth estate. He is a graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and UCLA.

9 Comments

  1. Again, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is an overtly pro-HHK publication. Shame the owner no longer tries to hide it anymore.

    Once again, like the previous article, the author is basing the argument on the false premise that Armenia has free and fair elections. The system you are describing works in places like Norway, Sweden, UK, and other developed Western nations because they already had many of the solid democratic institutions in-tact when their political systems were created. In case you didn’t know, your argument that this “reform” is going to lead to any sort of change in Armenia without going through the necessary measures of protecting minority rights, increasing opposition platforms in the media and public square, increasing free speech, and including the public’s opinion in critical decisions, is simply not going to work. You are looking at the hypothesized end product without acknowledging everything that is needed to get there. This system works in European countries because, for example, one party does not own major television outlets and members of parliament in those countries do not have their own television channels to promote themselves and their ideologies. The Norwegian broadcaster, for example, offers equal time to all candidates, and authorities in Norway will never block an opposition channel from being formed by revoking their operating license.

    You don’t seem to understand — or rather, you do understand but seem to have another agenda– that the Republican Party is not just another political party in Armenia. It is an organization that maintains control of almost every aspect of political and public life in Armenia. Its members are multi-millionaires who have a disproportionate amount of wealth (and thus, power and resources) compared to other members of parliament. This is an unleveled playing field and you know that, and this will tilt the “democratic” process in the HHK’s favor permanently, just like how they’re paying people to vote yes and forcing all state employees to do so. That’s not democratic in neither a presidential nor a parliamentary system. The system that you’re arguing for will not succeed in a country like Armenia because society truly needs to be pluralistic for the government to reflect that. Armenian society is anything but pluralistic. Try to be gay in Armenia in public and watch your name appear in a newspaper along with your address and social media accounts. Try to be a woman’s rights activist and get threatened with rape and beating by some ignorant villagers. Try to be a Jehovah’s Witness and see the public scold you and curse you. Let’s be honest: even many kinds of political thought are attacked. You want to show an Azeri film in Yerevan, a mob will mobilize and try to threaten you and your safety. You want to show a movie about gays, a massive outcry will follow. These emotions are often promoted by MP’s themselves. You seem to ignore the fact that for Armenia’s ruling regime, “parliament” is just another way of sucking up resources. Armenia’s politicians do not have serious discussions about anything. The decision-making process is shrouded in mystery and completely volatile. We saw that with the EU decision and how that was reversed in an hour. Armenia’s MP’s are too stupid, tget and backwards to understand concepts like “pluralism” and “democracy” and how to set up a successful government. They are myopic and understand that parliament is an avenue for otherwise-unattainable riches. None of them are in it to serve the country, they’re in it to serve themselves.

    While I agree the parliamentary system is preferable in general, it will not work in a massively corrupt, cronyism-ramped state like Armenia, where everything is decided in advance, just like the “decision” you claim Armenians are going to be making on the 6th, in a country where being a social minority can often get you in trouble, and where government officials publicly make calls for inciting violence against its citizens. The system of government works in places like Norway because the conditions for its success were established long before.

    Also, of all of the pressing issues in Armenia, do you really think this is the biggest issue? The system would just fine if the elections were free and fair.

    Enough of your romanticism of and hopeless optimism… you have to be realistic here and see what’s really going on. HHK will never give their power away and will never create conditions for that to happen. I even heard on HHK member himself saying that with the new system, he was sure they would be around for another 50 years.

    • Oh, Sabz – shut up. You have been on this magazine’s comment section dragging back the commentary of each poignant point to your elementary level of thinking. Instead of looking objectively, as the author does, you take offense to everything immediately and lack the sense to find the logic behind every author’s words. Shake off your bias, and read the article for what it is, factual, and intellectual analysis. I would venture to say that it is people who share your rash behavior that jump to their illogical ramblings based on a solid opinion you have that is not negotiable with truth. The truth is that the country is changing, and you can’t stand it because you’re doing nothing except complaining about it instead of adding something to its evolution. shame.

    • “You want to show an Azeri film in Yerevan, a mob will mobilize and try to threaten you and your safety.”

      Why the hell would you want to show our enemies’ films in Armenia? They are people who want to occupy all of Armenia. You want us to have Stockholm Syndrome to the people who want to wipe us off the face of the earth? What’s the matter with you?!

      You also want more Jehovah’s Witnesses and gays in Armenia. Two things which would reduce the number of Armenian soldiers.

      All this gives me the impression that you’re a Western/Globalist propagandist.

    • {….. too stupid, tget and backwards to understand concepts like “pluralism” and “democracy” and how to set up a successful government.}

      Projecting again ?

  2. Why is it that every time an independent author writes an article about Armenia that is not morbid, pessimistic, negative or based on predictions of doom and gloom… Washington’s cyber-warriors show up to spew their doom and gloom?

    I think I know why:

    In 1969, British historian and aesthetician Sir Kenneth Clark stated the following: “It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilization. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs”

    A Dutch paper in 2004 called “The Effects of Strategic News on Political Cynicism, Issue Evaluations, and Policy Support” stated the following: “A Two-Wave Experiment found that the way the news media presents the news can cause political cynicism.”

    And the following was said by author Stephen Kinzer during an NPR Radio Interview: “[The Dulles brothers] were able to succeed [at regime change] in Iran and Guatemala because those were democratic societies, they were open societies. They had free press; there were all kinds of independent organizations; there were professional groups; there were labor unions; there were student groups; there were religious organizations. When you have an open society, it’s very easy for covert operatives to penetrate that society and corrupt it.”

    They have the tools to set the political mood of a society. They have the tools to sow political unrest. They first destroy the spirit through an information war, after which they can easily destroy the body either through economic/financial blackmail or war. Softening your political opposition and making it susceptible to collapse is what propaganda and psy-ops is all about. For Western powers the notion of “free media” simply means media controlled by Western interests. Therefore, keep this in mind next time you read news articles produced by Armenian news outlets based in the US or come across news reports put out by Armenia’s Western-financed political opposition. Most of the news reports and political commentaries put out by such sources are specifically designed to convey outrage against the Armenian state and sow hopelessness amongst Armenians. They are therefore meant to breakdown the spirit and sow the seeds of sociopolitical unrest.

    Now you know why Western powers have been encouraging Armenian opposition officials, journalists and political activists to disseminate negative news about Armenia on a constant basis. Their constant “sky is falling rhetoric” is how they have killed the Armenian spirit. Much of the reason behind why Armenians have been demoralized and why there is political instability and a powerful sense of hopelessness in Armenia in recent years is precisely due to the mass hysteria fomented by the Western-led opposition news press in Armenia. Armenia is suffering from a persistent campaign of doom and gloom as every single growing pain in the country gets co-opted by Western-led opposition news media and turned into a fiasco.

    Some reading material:

    US spy operation that manipulates social media : http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks

    US launches cyber spy operation: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/170623.html

    Pentagon spent millions studying how to influence social media: https://www.rt.com/usa/171356-darpa-social-media-study/

    How British spies covertly shape the flow of information online to ‘discredit’ their targets:http://www.businessinsider.com/gchq-spies-discredit-targets-on-the-internet-2015-6

    Spy Agencies Manipulate and Disrupt Web Discussions to Promote Propaganda and Discredit Government Critics: http://www.globalresearch.ca/spy-agencies-manipulate-and-disrupt-web-discussions-to-promote-propaganda-and-discredit-government-critics/5370668

    How foreign NGOs destroy Russia: http://english.pravda.ru/russia/politics/01-07-2015/131184-foreign_ngo_russia-0/#

    Do Certain NGOs Play the Role of a ‘Trojan Horse’ in Armenia?: http://www.armenianlife.com/2014/09/03/do-certain-ngos-play-the-role-of-a-trojan-horse-in-armenia/

    A Distorted Media Mirror: http://www.mirrorspectator.com/2014/08/21/a-distorted-media-mirror/

    Methods and goals of anti-Russian media in Armenia: http://vestnikkavkaza.net/analysis/politics/57463.html

  3. { But, they are campaigning against the proposed reforms and it’s because President Serzh Sargsyan has put them in a pickle they can’t escape.}
    .
    The so-called “opposition” demonstrating once again that they are not fit to be elected even a dog catcher in the remotest village of Armenia. The fact that these mentally developmentally challenged individuals are even discussed in media shows the level of tolerance and civilized behaviour present in Armenia. In US these marginal troublemakers would the butt of jokes and ridicule. But in Armenia a demagogue nut, a delinquent juvenile in a 50-year old body, is treated like a viable opposition politician.
    .
    [Opposition leader rips ballot during Armenia constitutional referendum]
    http://news.am/eng/news/300290.html
    .
    As the author wrote {….from the opposition’s decision is that nobody among them feels confident enough in their ability to unseat the Republican Party, even in a parliamentary system}
    .
    Knowing he is irrelevant and a political nobody, the perennial BarevaLoser throws one his tantrums, again, to draw attention to his irrelevance.

  4. {Again, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is an overtly pro-HHK publication. Shame the owner no longer tries to hide it anymore.} writes poster [SABZ]

    Well, reading the post above, it is becoming increasingly obvious the individual is a SorosaCadre, working for some SorosaMaidan NGO, with the purpose being to create chaos and disunity in Armenia, so it can no longer defend herself and be “liberated” by the same Neo-Nazsi gangs that “liberated” Ukraine and several other victim-countries. Things have turned out swimmingly in Ukraine, haven’t they ?
    .
    Someone who advocates disseminating Turkbaijani propaganda in Yerevan, (“ ….show an Azeri film…”), is either clearly disconnected from the real world, or……..
    Just a couple of days ago another Armenian young man was KIA by nomad invaders: [According to the Defense Ministry of the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR), NKR Defense Army serviceman Erik Grigoryan (b. 1995) was killed early on Dec. 4 in a gunfight following a penetration attempt by the Azerbaijani army into the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh.].
    .
    And if you want to try to be a Jehovah’s Witness, why don’t you, [SABZ], start in Baku ? Make sure you tell them you are an Armenian Jehovah’s Witness: see how that works out. Don’t forget to write.

  5. Some pertinent quotes to ponder:

    “What Armenia needs is a sociopolitical evolution and not a Western financed revolution. Rome was not built in a day. Was the Western world born this developed, this progressive or this wealthy, or did it have to travel a very long, bumpy path to get to where it is today? The Western world, including the US, took hundreds years to reach where it is today. In fact, the Western world is where it is today not due to “Democracy” but due to numerous wars of plunder, grand theft, genocide and human exploitation”

    “Similar to how the Vatican relentlessly pushed its version of Christianity upon “Godless” societies for many centuries, Washington has in similar fashion been pushing its version of a new religion known as Democracy/Globalism upon the political infidels of the world in recent times. We are all expected by the apostles and proselytizers of the cult of Democracy and Globalism to offer sacrifices to their holy doctrine because their god, the almighty Dollar is omnipresent; their only chosen one, the Zionist state of Israel is omnipotent; and if we dare to displease this modern cult, its wrath shall be unleashed upon us”

    “Elections in the US is basically about two groups of well connected people competing for the empire’s control panels. There has not been “free and fair” elections in the US for generations. The system is rigged to be a two party show. Democrats and Republicans are ultimately two sides of the same coin. Every four years the financial/corporate elite in the US decide what shirt the sheeple will wear, and the sheeple are given the “democratic” choice of picking between two colors. The US political system is like a two ring circus managed by a ringmaster that the audience does not get to see. US presidents are ‘appointed’ to be elected by the sheeple. US presidents are tasked with being the spokesmen or salesmen for special interests running the show behind-the-scenes in the American empire. The US is being run as if it is a multi-national corporation in which the American citizenry is its work force”

    “A little over century ago America’s robber barons (e.g. Carnegies, Rockefellers, Morgans, Goulds, Vanderbilts, Du Ponts, Warburgs, etc) used their immense fortunes to buy into the American political system, forever blurring the line between politics and business. These oligarchs used their powerful influences to impact the making of political legislation. The political system in the US was manipulated by America’s oligarchs to serve their businesses and to preserve their immense wealth. Although it has been in a decline in recent years, the American middle class essentially grew as a result of feeding on the crumbs that were falling off the lavish banquet tables of the nation’s super wealthy”

    “The Western world has severe forms of corruption. It can be argued that Western corruption is by-far the most egregious, albeit more nuanced and/or sophisticated. The main difference between corruption in the West and corruption in a place like Armenia is that corruption in the developed West is strictly reserved for the political/financial elite, whereas in an underdeveloped nation like Armenia all layers of society can engage in it. Moreover, Armenia is a tiny country, therefore any form of wrong doing can immediately be seen or felt by all. Through legislation, the practice of corruption in the Western world has evolved to become fully institutionalized. Therefore, in the West, institutionalized corruption is not for the common folk. Institutionalized corruption in the US, for instance, is reserved for the American empire’s elites (e.g. military industrial complex, Zionist/Jewish groups, pentagon, oil industry, Federal Reserve, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals industry, etc)”

    “Democracy for an adolescent nation like Armenia can prove fatal. As the events of early 2008 clearly revealed, Armenians are not yet politically mature enough to actually be given the responsibility of electing their leadership. We have seen the destruction democracy has visited upon undeveloped or underdeveloped nations throughout the world. The destructive nature of democracy on underdeveloped nations may be why some nations on Washington’s black list are being prescribed a very heavy dose of it these days. A nation like Armenia, just coming out of under a thousand years or Asiatic/Islamic/Bolshevik rule simply cannot have the proper national institutions or the mindsets with which to flirt with a dangerous and potentially destructive political process like democracy”

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