Armenian politician warns of ‘increased Russian influence’ after parliamentary election

10:04 • 07.02.17



In an interview with Tert.am, opposition politician David Shahnazaryan shared his comments on the upcoming parliamentary election and his expectations of possible outcomes.


Mr Shahnazaryan, how do you evaluate the potentials and ambitions of the political forces running for election?


We now see certain specific features which did not seem quite tangible in the past. First, the top positions on the proportional representation ballot will be of little significance when it comes to the election as such. All will depend on the candidates listed on the rating ballot. Secondly, what we call a “political campaign” will not be decisive either, as a small number of voters will cast ballots in favor of political parties (not the candidate running for election on the rating ballot). Thirdly, elections in Armenia have never before seen such a high direct engagement by Moscow. Another specificity to mention is that there are no essential political controversies. The [political] forces, which in the past said they wanted to see Armenia as a European-model state and proclaimed that objective, have made serious compromises in that respect. Hence, those in our society, who really back the idea will not apparently actively head to polls to say the least. Furthermore, most of the parties and alliances – especially the latter – have not even attempted to demonstrate that they are any better compared to the authorities.


For Moscow, the number one problem in Armenia is the  growing “anti-Russian sentiments” so to say. So this election is an opportunity for them to resolve the problem. Consequently, the parliament which is going to be formed will be very much like the [Russian] State Duma, which doesn’t have a political opposition. So in the best-case scenario, we will have only a few individual lawmakers.


I have repeatedly stated that the most serious problem in Armenia is the political system, so the political subjects running in this election are part of the problem, not the solution. Additionally, the new parliament will have a starkly visible ‘sustainable majority’.

The 100% proportional representation system was part and parcel of the constitutional reforms. But your statement makes clear that the majority component will be more strongly underlined than it used to be.


Yes, because only a small part of voters will elect a party. Returning to the previous question, I can only add that this election will further increase Moscow’s influence on the internal political processes in Armenia, making the parliament the kind of body which, instead of promoting political processes, will do just vice versa. I see a likelihood of serious social and domestic policy shocks, which will be instructed by Moscow.

 

What is your evaluation of [former Prime Minister] Hovik Abrahamyan’s move to quit the [ruling] Republican Party.

 

That’s in the realm of what I have already said.

 

Are you going to stand aloof from political processes?

 

That’s for sure.

There are analyses citing US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying that the Trump administration may initiate a new Armenia-Turkey reconciliation process. To what extent do you think it realistic?

 

The Armenia-Turkey relations will remain on the United States’ agenda. But given the existing uncertainty - both on the global level and in terms of European security - the coming period will be really dangerous, with the international security norms not functioning at all and no alternatives being in place.  So under these circumstances, we may have a “security vacuum” in the emerging zone.  Russia, in all likelihood, will derive advantage from that, establishing dominance over the entire South Caucasus region to keep  it under its influence. What raises really high concerns is the new White House administration’s extremely tough stance on Iran. The Armenian defense minister’s recent visit to Iran marked a new quality in our relations with the country, diversifying Armenia’s national security. Iran has a stabilizing role in the South Caucasus and in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone – as opposed to the Moscow-Baku-Ankara axis.  The policies pursued by the Trump administration should not be an obstacle for us. Armenia should continue expanding and deepening its multi-sectoral cooperation with Iran.

Do you see a likelihood of war?

 

A new war will be inevitable. 2017 will be a decisive period for both our region and the global and European security. The new parliament will not face up the challenges and shocks. What we will have will be the political replication of the State Duma.

Anush Dashtents





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