What Does the ARF Want?

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (ARF-D) has managed to change its position on the government’s signing and subsequent expected ratification of the protocols at least four times since October.

Just after the signing of the agreement to introduce the protocols last August, the ARF-D Bureau Chairman Hrant Markarian claimed that the party would do everything necessary to stop the anticipated signing of them. RFE/RL reported the following on September 16, 2009 alluding to the end of Serge Sarkisian’s reign should the protocols be signed:

President Serzh Sarkisian will lose power if he presses head with the signing of controversial agreements with Turkey, a top leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) warned on Wednesday.

“I think that he must finally sober up and refuse to sign them just because of his own interests,” said Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of the hard-line opposition party’s top governing body, the Bureau. “You must not cut the tree branch on which you are sitting.”

Markarian claimed that a deal with Turkey negotiated on the existing terms would the last straw for a considerable part of Armenia’s population unhappy with the government. “The people would sooner or later hold him accountable, and the price would be heavy,” he said, adding: “I believe that we would not be able to carry on.”

On October 8, Markarian gave even harsher criticism, calling to seek regime change should the protocols be signed.

Dashnaktsutyun, which was represented in Armenia’s ruling coalition until April, has so far refrained from seeking to unseat Sarkisian despite its harsh criticism of the two Turkish-Armenian protocols finalized by Ankara and Yerevan. It has instead proposed several amendments to the documents and tried to prevent their unconditional ratification by parliament.

“We will fight and are even ready to find a way out with the authorities,” said Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s top decision-making body. “But if we don’t meet with a corresponding attitude, we will not hesitate to go to the end, to go for regime change.”

The ARF-D reiterated this tough stance on October 12 shortly after the protocols were signed two days before.

The most vocal critic of the deal, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said it will fight against the protocols’ ratification by parliament “by all possible means” and again threatened to campaign for President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.

“The Armenian Revolutionary Federation is determined to fight for the scuttling of the protocols,” the nationalist party said in a statement. “To that end, Dashnaktsutyun will resort to all political and constitutional means, including regime change.”

On October 23, ARF-D Supreme Body leader Armen Rustamian again supported the idea of seeking the president’s resignation.

“We are preparing for regime change,” declared Rustamian. “Regime change has a broader meaning than a resignation demand. The country has deviated from its course and everything must be changed: the president, the National Assembly, the government and all those who deal with the Turkish-Armenian protocols.”

“We are preparing for regime change with this platform. This is going to be our plan for regime change,” he added, referring to a manifesto released by Dashnaktsutyun on Friday. The 6-page document speaks of “forthcoming national elections” and reaffirms the party’s position on a wide range of internal and external challenges facing Armenia.

Rustamian declined to elaborate on the announced preparations, saying only that Dashnaktsutyun will seek to “increase our support day by day.” “Regime change can’t come out of thin air,” he said, adding that Sarkisian would quit only after he feels that “there are things worse than resignation.”

The ARF-D had already submitted proposed changes to the protocols, but Prime Minister Nalbandian in an address before the National Assembly said that there was no way of modifying them while being debated for ratification. Yet the ARF-D carried on with its demands.

Then on January 13, the ARF-D backtracked on its hardline stance and said it would only seek regime change if the protocols were to be ratified.

This was announced a day after Armenia’s Constitutional Court ruling on the legitimacy of the protocols. Its ruling was made on the premise that the legality of protocols could not inhibit Armenia’s continued pursuit of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This naturally infuriated the Turkish leadership and doubt has been cast as to whether the protocols will indeed be ratified, as I pointed out in a previous post.

Two days ago the ARF-D claimed that it was responsible for influencing the Constitutional Court ruling, suggesting that President Sarkisian was essentially pressured by the party to persuade the court to make its decision. However, the ARF-D once again changed its mind and said it would only seek regime change during the next presidential elections, as Markarian noted.

Markarian reiterated in that regard Dashnaktsutyun’s calls for Armenia’s parliament to ratify the protocols with corresponding “reservations.” He indicated that his party will not seek to unseat Sarkisian with a campaign of street protests should the National Assembly ignore those calls.

“We are trying to achieve regime change by means of elections, regular or non-regular,” said Markarian. “Going beyond elections is a different thing which we don’t seek at the moment.”

So basically the ARF-D has decided that it is OK with President Sarkisian as well as the protocols after all. It took them nearly five months to figure that out, though. Why the party went back on its promise is anyone’s guess. Rumors have been spreading that the party–which is supposedly in opposition–was cooperating with the Sarkisian administration behind the scenes all along, so something apparently is going on.

All of the information conveyed above was reported in meetings and interviews with the press. Nothing has been taken out of context, as should be obvious when you read the original reports.

Incidentally, yesterday in an address before the Chattem House in London President Sarkisian announced that he would immediately urge the National Assembly to move forward with the ratification of the protocols, even though everyone was waiting for the Turkish parliament to do it first. I have yet to read the ARF-D’s reaction to this decision. Seems all its leadership can say at this point is to agree that it’s the right thing to do.

The questions are the following: Why isn’t the ARF-D concerned that it is looking hypocritical by changing its stance so many times before the Armenian public? Is it just me or does the party leadership look foolish? And who can really take the party seriously anymore?

With each passing day my faith in the Armenian political system and the fostering of democratic values in Armenian society are submerging deeper into oblivion.

One thought on “What Does the ARF Want?

  1. The answer for the ARF’s recent flip-flopping is that the party, supreme council and top leadership have no clue when it comes to taking a principled approach to a matter of such import.

    No one, especially in Armenia, takes the ARF at its word anymore.

    The party’s initial outcry regarding the Protocols was merely a face saving measure, mainly for the party’s supporters outside the RoA.

    Believe it or not, there are still some holdouts in the diaspora who actually believe that the ARF is still the same party as back in the early 20th century rather than the assemblage of opportunists and entrenched regime bed-fellows it is today. No amount of internal reform will change its essence.

    Regime change??? It’s laughable. And get the bravado of the party to claim it managed to sway the Constitutional Court to formulate the decision it did. Some active imagination.

    ARF die-hards should come to grips with reality and the fact that their beloved “revolutionary” party is a group of compromisors than anything else, ready to bend with the prevailing winds.

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