Third Republic: Twenty years of independence, three presidents and no political culture

Third Republic: Twenty years of independence, three presidents and no political culture


During the 20 years of its independence the Republic of Armenia has had three presidents. It would seem natural that all three of them would participate in the anniversary festivities, as the scale and the significance of this occasion goes far beyond interpersonal and inter-party relations.

Both the first and the second presidents, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan respectively, have received an official invitation to the September 21 Independence Day festive dinner, military parade and concert. Nonetheless, neither the first nor the second presidents will take part in the events.

Ter-Petrosyan led Armenian National Congress’s press service refused to comment on the ex-president’s decision. Nevertheless, his position is obvious. Ter-Petrosyan, who ran the office from 1991 to 1998, believes that the ruling circles of Armenia have usurped power, and from his perspective there isn’t much difference between Kocharyan and the current president - Serzh Sargsyan.

Believing that he is the “father of the Third Republic”, Ter-Petrosyan has a zealous attitude towards his main opponents, and doesn’t consider possible his participation in any event initiated by either of them.

The second president’s position, however, is not that obvious; Kocharyan led the Republic of Armenia between 1998 and 2008. A few days prior to Independence Day, Kocharyan said in his interview to local Golos Armenii (Armenia’s Voice) newspaper: “Independent Armenia is turning 20. I was its president during 10 out of 20 of those years, served as prime minister for a year, and five more years as leader of Nagorno Karabakh. Meaning that I was in the center of all events, and all that was very important for the country, and me personally.”

Yet, Kocharyan, too, is refusing to take part in the celebrations. Kocharyan’s spokesperson Viktor Soghomonyan explained that Kocharyan’s will be abasent from the country: “he will be abroad during those days”.

As for Serzh Sargsyan, naturally, he will be “in command of the parade”. At the same time, as speculated in Armenian mass media, the current president wanted to introduce a new political culture and take up the “mission of a reconciler of the sides”. It didn’t work.

Kocharyan’s reasoning for not participating in the celebrations hardly sounds convincing. Obviously, if he did want to take part in the event, he could have easily chosen different dates for his trip abroad. He is, rather, not ready yet to communicate with either the majority of Armenian politicians, or mass media representatives, who would not miss the chance to ask him questions on the prospects of his return into major politics.

The second president has recently frequently appeared in press and TV, however, has kept his own future professional plans close to the vest.

In a September 17, Kocharyan boasted of his presidential prowess, conveniently sidestepping less sterling events including his role in the March 1, 2008 fatal unrest: “It’s not easy to shake off depressive moods and move the economy. It was only in 2001 that I felt the full impact of how the wheel of the economy started to spin, and the authorities’ task was to eliminate all the obstacles and maintain that steady movement. And the result was the average of 10.5 percent GDP growth in ten years, and 12.5 percent in the last seven years of my presidency. The quality of people’s lives improved essentially. We were among the Top 10 rapidly developing countries in the world. We proved that it is possible to develop by accelerated tempo without sacrificing national interests, under the circumstances of a blockade and non-settled Karabakh issue” .

Such statements by the second president are perceived in the highlight of his potential return to big politics. Which forces could be interested in his full return, and which forces, would, on the contrary, wish for his “final retirement”?

In any case, the fact that Kocharyan will not participate is perceived on the backdrop of a stage of consideration Kocharyan is currently in, trying to think over and decide on a strategy of what his further steps should be.