Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Armenian Events Bringing a New Generation to Power, One that Looks to Europe Not Russia, Khzmalyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 29 – For the last month, commentators in Russia and elsewhere have debated whether the Armenian events that led to the ouster of Serzh Sargsyan who tried to retain power as Vladimir Putin did earlier by downgrading the presidency and elevating the prime minister’s office are a revolution or merely a domestic political crisis.

            But there is one thing no one can dispute, and Armenian analyst Tigran Khzmalyan points to it in a commentary today on the Kasparov.ru portal; and this is this: the new prime minister in Yerevan has brought to power a new, younger and less Russian-oriented generation than the one it replaced (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5B0C192D4795A).

            If the average age of the ministers in Sargsyan’s regime was in the 50s and 60s, “the new government [has] an average age of about 33. There are ministers who are 28 and 29,” and Nikol Pashinyan, the new head of government in Armenia is only 42. And that generational change is already having significant effects.

            Those born 60 years ago were adults when the Karabakh war began and the Soviet Union disintegrated. Those born 33 years ago were three-year-olds when the fighting with Azerbaijan started in earnest and six when the USSR ceased to exist. They thus have very different biographies and points of reference.

            Khzmalyan points out that “the young ministers happily are dispensing with the privileges of their positions” that their predecessors accepted as a matter of course; and more important, these new officials are revealing ever more about the corrupt relations of their predecessors including with Russian officials.

            According to the Armenian analyst, Armenians have stopped watching entertainment programs on television and focused instead on the news. There has been a sharp decline in emigration from the country and a rise in housing prices.  And he suggests that by fall, there will be growth in the number of Armenians coming home, from Russia in the first instance.

            Political prisoners are being freed, and their cases are calling attention to what the previous regime was about and sparking demands for opening investigations into the corruption of those who illegitimately put other Armenians into jail. People are respecting one another in small ways and large, and there is a growing sense of solidarity especially among the young.

            As corruption has been limited, prices have fallen, creating another bonus for Armenians and also generating more support for the new government. When elections are held in the fall, “it is not difficult to predict radical changes in the party balance in Armenia” with the pro-Russian party of the past losing to the pro-European parties of the future.

            Pashinyan is being cautious, more cautious than some would like, Khzmalyan continues. “But each anti-corruption process, each cadre appointment from ‘the new wave,’ and each succeeding free election will weaken the path of centuries old dependency and allow Armenia to become closer to Europe.”

            That doesn’t mean that geography has been repealed, but one generation which looks to Europe is replacing a generation that has always looked toward Moscow. And that ultimately sets the stage for radical changes.  “In any case,” Khzmalyan says, “the first weeks of the new authorities point in that direction.”

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