By Armen Arakelyan

Serzh Sarkisian has launched his project to formulate a monolith power base five months before the parliamentary elections.
He wasn’t able to do this during the past two and a half years in power.
A two-tiered government had been set up after the 2008 presidential elections. One was the public government that belonged to Serzh Sarkisian and the other was the shadow government that was the property of former President Robert Kocharian.
Kocharian ran that government from behind the curtains, employing a variety of individuals – National Assembly President Hovik Abrahamian, RA minister for Territorial Affairs Armen Grigorian, Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepian, Prosperous Armenia Party President Gagik Tsarukian and others.
One can state that to date, Serzh Sarkisian hadn’t been “ruling” over this legacy in Armenia but merely managing it, which he inherited from Kocharian.
And it is a well-known fact that the owner can change his manager at any time or after the contract has expired.
This duality put Sarkisian in a situation of dependency from the Kocharian wing.
This dependency was shaped with the extremely heavy legacy of March 1, domestic and external crises linked to the question of his very legitimacy as president, and the activities of the radical opposition in Armenia.
During the past three years, Sarkisian has constantly striven to neutralize all the factors that were maintaining his dependency on Kocharian. To a large degree, he has been successful.
The Council of Europe has essentially closed the page on the March 1 tragedy and has freed the government from revealing the true criminals involved.
Secondly, by making serious concessions in the matter of Armenian-Turkish reconciliation and the Karabakh conflict settlement, Sarkisian has been able to remove the matter of his legitimacy off the agenda of the international community.
Thirdly, these achievements have essentially stripped the opposition of any foreign assistance.
On the other hand, the Armenian National Congress, due to its inconsistency, unwise and rushed behavior, has been deprived of wide popular support. This has allowed the government to avoid domestic pressure and social-political tremors.
In other words, in the lead-up to the parliamentary election a situation had been created in which there was nothing to prevent Serzh Sarkisian to redefine the political landscape in his image and to make the necessary personnel changes.
Sarkisian was also prompted to make such moves given the possible return to politics of his predecessor, Kocharian.
Even though Sarkisian was able to renew the coalition contract with the three parties involved and gain their backing for his presidential run in 2013, he felt compelled to make changes on the ground and not merely rely on a piece of paper.
The centripetal tendencies of the Prosperous Armenia Party in this regard made Sarkisian even more aware of the need to take concrete steps in this direction.
The only remaining potential obstacle was the Russian factor. Sarkisian’s official visit to Russia last month perhaps finally shored up his position on this front as well.
It is not coincidental that the serious staff changes in the Armenian government began immediately after the Russian visit.
All of Sarkisian’s personnel changes are clearly aimed at consolidating his power and administrative resources.
Using all the state and administrative levers at his disposal, Sarkisian has been able to obtain the “loyalty” of Gagik Tsarukian. Thus, the shadow Kocharian government has been stripped of its political base.
The next move was to remove Yerevan Mayor Karen Karapetian, a good manager but not a political figure that Sarkisian could rely on in the upcoming elections in terms of using the administrative levers at his disposal for electoral aims.
Karapetian was replaced with Taron Margarian, a young Republican Party member with political ambitions and who is devoted to the president.
Margarian is seen as someone who can use his experience as a political operator during his tenure as Avan District Leader, across all of Yerevan. He is also seen as someone who can effectively bridge the gap between the old and new guard within the party.
Armenia’s Police Chief Alik Sarkisian had to go because even given his loyalty to the government he remained an outside figure to the inner sanctum of the agency. The department’s authority had suffered under Alik Sarkisian’s watch as well and morale suffered, raising doubts in the ruling government that Armenia’s law enforcement would be willing and able to serve its interests when called upon.
Alik Sarkisian’s replacement, Vladimir Gasbarian, started his career in the police system and maintains close contacts with the force. He’s an insider, unlike his predecessor.
The resignation of National Assembly President Hovik Abrahamian in this scenario of personnel rearrangements is unique from a political perspective.
The justification for Abrahamian’s dismissal, that he has been selected to run the campaign headquarters of Serzh Sarkisian, is absurd and makes no sense.
No government official in the past, let alone on the level of parliament president, has ever resigned from office to assume this post.
President Sarkisian, in fact, simply wished to isolate Abrahamian, both administratively and politically, while at the same time keeping him under check.
By neutralizing Abrahamian politically, Serzh Sarkisian has essentially beheaded the Kocharian wing in the government.
This poses a clear choice for the rest like Armen Gevorgian and Aghvan Hovsepian.
Either they must accept the new game rules and become full members of the Serzh Sarkisian camp or voluntarily resign as well.

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