In 2015, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan unveiled his draft of a new constitution proposing a transition from presidential rule to a parliamentary system, where the prime minister would serve as the head of the state. The prevailing belief among the political circles and the population, was that with these changes, Sargsyan was trying to extend his rule, considering that the previous constitution did not allow him to run for a 3rd term.
Serzh Sargsyan, however, assured everyone that he had no intention of remaining in power and will not run for the prime minister’s job in the future. The constitutional changes were adopted in a referendum, which was marred by large-scale fraud.
In April 2018, breaking his previous promise, Serzh Sargsyan was elected by the parliament as the prime minister. At the time, he justified his move with his desire to shape a generation of young future leaders. Shortly thereafter, nationwide protests broke out overthrowing Sargsyan’s Republican-led party rule.
This week, in an interview with ArmNews TV, Serzh Sargsyan, contradicting his previous positions on this subject, gave an entirely different reason as to why he tried to stay in power. According to this new explanation, he wanted to remain in power in order to implement the “Lavrov” plan, named after the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for the settlement of the Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) conflict. According to this plan, 5 regions surrounding Artsakh were to be returned to Azerbaijan upon signing of an agreement, and the future of the other two regions would have been linked to the timing of the referendum on the future status of Artsakh. “Not only was I ready to sign, but I exclusively agreed to remain the prime minister of the Republic of Armenia to implement that option. And I was not going to sign it in secret, but naturally, after achieving what we were striving for, it was going to be a topic of public discussion and heated debate,” said the third president in the same interview.
Regardless of his evolving reasons for staying in office, Sargsyan admitted that he was ready to hand over the territories but was not able to do so because of the 2018 Velvet Revolution which toppled his government. Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, referring to the former president’s interview, said that during the four-day war in April 2016, Aliyev was promised the return of the seven regions and that is why Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire at a time when it was gaining the upper hand on the battlefield.
Before and after Serzh Sargsyan’s admission, the reality remains the same. In 1998, when the first president, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, spoke of making peace with Azerbaijan, he was ousted in a “palace coup.” After which, for twenty years, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan ruled the country together, taking no concrete steps to modernize the Armenian military – even after the April war, when Azerbaijan’s air superiority became apparent. The development and implementation of plans to improve the Armed Forces and establishing a military balance, remained inadequate.
With his statement of willingness to hand over the seven regions, Serzh Sargsyan came to acknowledge the fact that over the years, promises were made to Azerbaijan, which were then passed on to the new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as an “inheritance.” At the same time, with his admission, Sargsyan has betrayed his own allies in the opposition who have accused Pashinyan of committing “treason” and demanding his resignation for signing the November 9 agreement, withdrawing the military from the seven regions in Artskah, during the six-week war.
After four months of futile street protests to topple the government, the opposition needs to change its agenda and its slogan, otherwise, it will continue to remain on the sidelines, rebuffed by the majority of the Armenian society.