Regnum, Russia
May 27 2006

Armenia to obtain its own Saakashvili? Armenian press digest

Armenian-Russian relations

Presently we are witness to Russia's progressing retreat from
Caucasus and growing US presence there. America's global goal is to
involve Kazakhstan in the Baku-Ceyhan project in order to cut Russia
off the geo-politics in Caucasus and Central Asia, political
scientist Andranik Migranyan said during the international scientific
conference `Caucasus Without Conflicts and Terrorism: Dialogue of
Civilizations on the Caucasian Crossroads' in Yerevan. He says that
in its regional plans the US relies mostly upon countries that are
unable to solve their problems on their own. `Absolutely obviously,
Georgia cannot get back Abkhazia and South Ossetia and hopes for the
US' help. And the US is making use of it. However, all the attempts
of Russia and the US to use Georgia for pushing each other out of the
region are doomed to failure. Even if helped by the US, Georgia will
still fail to solve its internal problems,' says Migranyan.

`The whole post-Soviet area and the South Caucasus, in particular, is
getting internationalized - new players are entering the region - the
US, the EU,' the head of the international relations department of
the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, candidate of
historical sciences Sergey Markedonov says in an interview to REGNUM.
`However, one should not get hysterical and say that Russia is
stampeding from Caucasus.' `Simply, Russia will have to learn to work
in new conditions as nobody can prevent internationalization or force
the US or the EU out of the region.' `Both the US and Russia are
interested in secular Azerbaijan, both are interested in the
settlement of conflicts in the post-Soviet area. Russia has one
way-out - to give up illusions, to start rivaling and to step up its
peacemaking efforts, particularly, in Karabakh,' says Markedonov.

Russian MP, the director of the CIS Institute Konstantin Zatulin, who
came to Yerevan for participating in the international conference
`Caucasus Without Conflicts and Terrorism: Dialogue of Civilizations
on the Caucasian Crossroads,' says that `the problems related to the
South Caucasus have always been solved by external forces,' says
Iravunk daily. Zatulin says that although today Russia is not as
strong as it was in the Soviet times, `Russia is still closer to the
South Caucasus than the US is and understands its problems better and
deeper than the US does.' `Even more, Russia wants peace in the
region most of all - even in the unrecognized republics.' Zatulin
says that Russia is closer to the Caucasus than the US is and,
consequently, does not want `anybody to `warm-up' in this region like
they did in Iraq.'

`The gas issue' in Armenian-Russian relations has no political
implication, professor of the Moscow State Institute of International
Relations, member of the Public Chamber of Russia, political
scientist Andranik Migranyan says to ARKA. `I don't think that the
rise in the gas tariff for Armenia has anything to do with Armenia's
involvement in the NATO IPAP. I would not link it either with the
so-called `cooling down' between Moscow and Yerevan.' Migranyan says
that Russia is transiting to market relations with not only European
but also CIS countries, and the rise in the gas tariffs is the result
of this policy.

`A state cannot be a member of two military organizations at once: if
we are members to the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization -
REGNUM), it is, mildly speaking, wrong to speak about membership in
NATO,' the chief of the General Staff of Armenia's Armed Forces,
General Mikayel Haroutyunyan says to A1+. He says that he does not
encourage any kinds of statements about the necessity of joining
NATO. `We know the policy of our state and our position on NATO: we
say we will take part in various NATO programs, but always note that
we have no plans to join that organization. Probably, we'll need to
do it at some time in the future but today we are part of an
absolutely different security system - the CSTO,' says Haroutyunyan.
Asked if Armenia is sufficiently safe within the CSTO, Haroutyunyan
says: `Armenia's security depends, first of all, on us, then, on the
CSTO and, finally, on our relations with NATO and NATO
member-states.' Haroutyunyan says that this scheme is the most
effective way to ensure the country's security.

The head of the comparative political science department of the
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, doctor of
political sciences Mikhail Ilyin answers ArmInfo's questions:

`What do you think about the present level of Armenian-Russian

Armenian-Russian relations have been developing quite positively
throughout their modern history and now too they are good on both
governmental and public levels.

How strong are these relations? Before the late 2004 events the
Ukrainian-Russian relations were also unclouded. Is there any
guarantee that nothing like that will happen with Armenian-Russian

There is no guarantee at all, in the politics there is always a good
deal of improvisation and uncertainly. However, we have quite a big
potential of cooperation and only very serious circumstances can
break it.

In 2008, both Armenia and Russia are to elect presidents and are
consequently expected to face internal political problems. Can the
presidential campaign divert Moscow's attention from our region?

Naturally, internal problems can overshadow many international
concerns, but this will last for a very short period, if happens at
all. In fact, very many international problems may be included in the
agenda of the presidential election. Among them are certainly the
Iranian problem, the general situation in the Caspian region, the
problem of oil transit in the region, the problem of oil and gas
transit between Russia and Western Europe and the relatively recent
problem of fuel supplies to the East, first of all, to China and
Japan. All these problems can be very closely related to the internal
political agenda. (ArmInfo, the interview is abridged)

Aib-Fe daily reports the former leader of the Rodina party, deputy of
Russia's State Duma Dmitry Rogozin to urge to set up in Russia a
structure similar to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
`Dashnaktsoutyun' (ARFD). In an interview to The Russian Line
internet-daily, he urges to use the experience of `other peoples in
exile.' He says: `Let's take Dashnaktsoutyun as an example. It was
the key anti-Turkish force in the times of the Armenian Genocide in
the Ottoman Empire. Then the Armenians were scattered all over the
world, but they had Dashnaktsoutyun, who had offices in different
countries. It had an international bureau that solved key problems
and had its creative elite. The center coordinated a very wide range
of initiatives - political and women's organizations, youth unions,
journalists' associations. We should form a similar structure.'

Orinats Yerkir party withdraws from the ruling coalition

During the May 22 parliamentary session, Speaker of the Armenian
Parliament Artur Bagdassaryan officially filed his resignation. The
parliament's regulations say that he should confirm his decision
within 5 days. He said he was going to resign on May 12. A day before
the political council of his Orinats Yerkir party decided to withdraw
from the ruling coalition. Bagdassaryan said that this decision was
due to intra-coalition differences on internal and foreign political
issues and democracy development. (Novosti Armenia)

Aravot says that the withdrawal of OY means the breakup of the
coalition - as point 8 of the memorandum on the formation of the
coalition says: `The early break up of the coalition is possible: a)
if one of the parties leaves it because of differences over crucial
issues; b) if all the parties agree to it.' In this particular case,
we have both and, consequently, the coalition no longer exists.
Aravot wonders how come then that the ARFD and the Republican Party
of Armenia (RPA) are going to share the posts given to Orinats Yerkir
by the memorandum.

As if in response to Aravot's question, the leader of the RPA
parliamentary faction Galust Sahakyan says to Iravunk daily: `Though
no longer with Orinats Yerkir, the coalition has preserved its format
in the framework of earlier agreements. Simply it is enlarging its
scope of cooperation and is giving substantial levers to other
factions - People's Deputy, United Labor Party...'

4th Power daily says: `Robert Kocharyan certainly understands that
dangerous for him is not only the victory of the opposition during
the elections 2007 but also the landslide victory of the RPA-Serzh
Sarkisyan tandem. And in order to prevent this tandem from polling
more votes than necessary, he makes two moves: he sends Artur
Bagdassaryan `on mission' to the opposition and steps up the
PR-campaign of Samvel Babayan (ex-commander of the Defense Army of
Karabakh - REGNUM).'

It's hard to say if Artur Bagdassaryan took this step on his own will
or if it was just some agreement, for example, `the opposition
seizure' of the presidential seat, a scenario drafted together with
Kocharyan, says Taregir daily.

168 Zham reports that Bagdassaryan has started negotiations with the
parliamentary opposition and is persuading them to leave the
parliament. This is the only chance for him to get a place in the
opposition, says the daily. `In fact, the objective of Bagdassaryan's
action was to convince the people and the opposition that he is the
very charismatic leader the opposition has been searching for in vain
for so long. However, Bagdassaryan has understood that resigning was
not enough, he needs one more step to become `N1' in the opposition.'

Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan does not see any political
crisis after the resignation of the speaker of the Armenian
parliament Artur Bagdassaryan. In a talk with journalists he called
this issue `not topical.' (Aib-Fe)

The director of the Sociometer sociological center Agaron Adibekyan
says that the people perfectly know that `the coalition was a
temporary compromise for power division.' `It would be quite a
different question if the coalition had clear political line,
specific steps and goals, but it was just a coalition of operational
governance. If there was a problem, the coalition members solved it,
if there was no problem, they went together to dine in a restaurant.
If leaving the coalition were the Dashnaks, it would be already a
serious political crisis. Orinats Yerkir was just a newcomer in the
politics, while the withdrawal of a party who has always been in
power would have quite a different effect,' Adibekyan says in an
interview to Azg daily.

Political scientist Alexander Iskandaryan says that the parliamentary
crisis will liven up the political life for some time, but in a week
or two, at longest, everything will take its normal course. (Hayots

The pro-governmental parliamentary parties are living really happy
times, says 168 Zham: `Just a year before the elections a whole group
of Armenian businessman deputies, with their purses in hand, are
searching for new insurance policies on the political stock

After the withdrawal of the 20-member Orinats Yerkir from the
coalition, the parliamentary majority has stopped to exist, says
Aravot daily and adds: `In normal countries when the government loses
parliamentary majority it resigns.'

Will Bagdassaryan become another Saakashvili?

The focus of public attention in Armenia continues to be the
withdrawal of the Orinats Yerkir party from the coalition and the
resignation of Artur Bagdassaryan. A1+ has asked 549 visitors of its
web-site why this happened. 33% say that Bagdassaryan was pressured
by Robert Kocharyan, 20% that he did that to raise his popularity, 6%
that this was due to a conflict between the RPA and the ARFD, 3% that
it was `a coalition step.' 38% are sure that what is going on around
Orinats Yerkir is a political game coordinated with Robert Kocharyan.

Taregir daily says that the resignation of Artur Bagdassaryan and his
joining the opposition gives cause for comparing him with Mikhail
Saakashvili. While comparing the two figures - both, while in offices
(Saakashvili as Justice Minister - REGNUM), were known for their
pro-western views and criticism of passive fight against corruption -
the daily tries to make some forecasts. It says that Bagdassaryan
(like Saakashvili in his time) will not take any active steps against
the authorities before the elections.

Taregir reminds that in his sensational interview to a German
newspaper the ex speaker warned that there will be inevitable shocks
if the authorities try to falsify the next elections. `In this sense,
Bagdassaryan's key task is to become the leader of the opposition -
not at once but well after the parliamentary elections 2007, if his
party manages to become the biggest opposition force in the
parliament. His resignation from the post of speaker will allow him
to show extremely radical attitudes and to earn political dividends.
The West will support Bagdassaryan and his party both morally and
materially. His popularity may grow very high if next year the
government fails to budget the recovery of people's old deposits,
which is quite possible. In such a case, after the parliamentary
elections Bagdassaryan will get real chances to become the leader of
a popular movement for democracy.'

After the withdrawal of the Orinats Yerkir party from the coalition
and the resignation of Artur Bagdassaryan some experts say that
Bagdassaryan may become Armenian Saakashvili. Aib-Fe reports the
leader of the National Democratic Union party Vazgen Manukyan to
disagree: `They are absolutely different people with absolutely
different biographies and in absolutely different situations.
Perhaps, the only thing they have in common is their height.'
Manukyan rejects the suppositions that in the future Bagdassaryan
will unite all oppositionists. He says that time will show if he
finds his place. He tends to think that the withdrawal of OY from the
coalition was just a game: they simply decided to punish Bagdassaryan
-and not for controversy over foreign policy but for his regular
statements about corruption and electoral fraud. Manukyan says that
the parliamentary opposition must not take part in the election of
the speaker `as Robert Kocharyan will replace one of his officials by
another himself.'

The leader of the opposition Republic party Aram Sarkisyan answers
A1+'s questions:

`Artur Bagdassaryan says that our society has quite a big opposition
group who will support him...'

It's early yet to speak about it. Time will show if Orinats Yerkir is
actually an opposition party or not, if it is supported by people or

Some people say that in the opposition Artur Bagdassaryan is going to
rival with you...

I see no reason for rivalry. On the contrary, any figures speaking on
behalf of the opposition and accepted by the society can have their
own niche and possible political cooperation.

Are you ready to cooperate with Artur Bagdassaryan?

It depends on his actions. I don't rule out such a possibility.

Do you agree with the opinion that Artur Bagdassaryan is just the
authorities' tool for dispersing the opposition's votes during the
next elections?

I don't think that Artur Bagdassaryan might agree to such treatment.
I don't think this possible.

Then how could you characterize the processes in the ruling
coalition, particularly, the withdrawal of Orinats Yerkir?

To cut it short: it was one more disgrace of our political sphere.

Who will become the 7th speaker of the Armenian parliament?

After the reports about the resignation of the speaker of the
Armenian parliament Artur Bagdassaryan several ambassadors of western
countries expressed wish to meet with the leader of the People's
Deputy parliamentary group Karen Karapetyan. They in the group's
secretariat have confirmed the fact of the meeting, but have given no
details. Still, A1+ has learned that Karapetyan was offered the post
of the speaker but rejected it. The negotiations still continue. The
news agency reminds that today the People's Deputy group is the
second biggest force in the parliament after the Republican Party.

Many have recently rumored that the leader of the National Unity
parliamentary faction Artashes Geghamian is a possible candidate for
the post. However, 168 Zham reports Geghamian to say that he does not
take these rumors seriously. `Just like those spreading the rumors, I
take them with humor,' he says in an interview with the daily.

Reliable sources report that elected to the post of speaker will be
the vice speaker Tigran Torosyan. Hayots Ashkharh daily says that the
post of vice speaker will be offered to the leader of the People's
Deputy parliamentary group Karen Karapetyan, while the 17-member
group will join the ruling coalition.