Friday, May 11, 2018

Armenia Entering a Period of ‘Dual Power,’ Yerevan Sociologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 11 – Because he came to office without the kind of political team or party most leaders have, new Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will have to rely on cadres from the ruling Republican Party whose leader, Serzh Sargsyan, he and the demonstrators ousted, Agaron Adibekyan says.

As a result, the director of Sotsiometr, the Armenian sociological center, argues, the new man will find it difficult if not impossible to move in the radical new directions many of his followers expect. That means that some of them may feel disappointed or even betrayed (

But there is a more immediate and dangerous possibility, Adibekyan suggests, and it is this: Armenia could be about to enter a period of “dual power” in which neither the new leader nor the supporters of the former regime will be able to set the agenda and the country may thus drift rather than move in either direction.

That could lead to new mass demonstrations and also to a delay in holding new parliamentary elections, the sociologist says. On the one hand, the population is now mobilized and expectant.  And on the other, Pashinyan and his supporters are less well-organized for a campaign than their opponents.

Thus, Adibekyan says, there will be a period of “dual power.” The two sides, Pashinyan’s supporters and the backers of the former regime “will be able to find a common language and jointly solve conflict situations. [He] promises to change and develop laws so that citizens can freely express their opinion … But when I hear his speeches, they seem to me quite populist.”

“A normal leader always says that he must achieve” this or that goal through the use of state power, the sociologist says; but “we still haven’t heard that” from Pashinyan.  It may be that he will shift from populism to governing but as he does so, he will lose some of the support that put him in office.

Armenians went into the streets for many reasons. Officially, unemployment is 20 percent, but “according to unofficial sources, much more.” Half of the population lives in poverty; and three out of every four graduates believe they will only have a future if they leave the country and settle abroad, Adibekyan continues.

They had hoped that the change in the constitution that made the prime minister the most important figure in the state would change things, he says; but that didn’t appear to be happening. And Armenians have become angry. As a result, Pashinyan now must try to use the parliament to change things; but he doesn’t control it.

“Now at the apex of power is still the old guard which emerged under Serzh Sargsyan.” These people too are angry because they have “lost power.” They are looking for a way out, but the issue of the resolution of the Karabakh conflict acts to restrict the possibilities of solving other issues.

The clearest indication of what Pashinyan can do within the current balance of forces, the sociologist suggests, will be his appointments of the defense minister, the police chief, the procuracy heads and judges.  If he is able to make big changes in personnel, he will also make big changes in policy. But right now, that prospect is a distant one.

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