Kocharyan tosses challenge to Pashinyan

Mamikon Babayan, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Kocharyan tosses challenge to Pashinyan

In an effort to protect himself from criminal prosecution, ex-President of Armenia Robert Kocharian intends to establish a new political party and go into opposition. The situation being experienced by Kocharyan is not easy - although the ex-president is at large, the criminal case against him has not been closed.

The creation of a party is the first stage of the future struggle between the old and new political elites of Armenia, which is quite likely to end with the complete destruction of the political career of one of the politicians. Kocharyan is a cold-blooded and calculating aggressor when it comes to settling political scores; and Pashinyan is a tribune of the people, who not used to staging a frontal assault. Obviously, both will exploit the weaknesses of the opponents, Pashinyan will focus on the unpopularity of Kocharyan in Armenian society, while Kocharyan will use all his political resources to criticize every step of Pashinyan, whose power is not strong enough.

The best offence is defense, so the former Armenian President's lawyers are preparing an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. The situation concerning the scandalous interception of telephone conversations between the heads of the National Security Service (SNB) and the Special Investigation Service (SIS) of Armenia is an opportunity to expose the Pashinyan regime, casting a shadow over the image of the “Armenia reformer."

On September 11, the recording of the phone conversation between the director of the SNB Arthur Vanetsyan and the head of the SIS Sasun Khachatryan was posted online,  in which the heads of security agencies discuss Kocharyan’s arrest. Vanetsyan and Khachatryan will probably not be dismissed, but this is not necessary, since Kocharyan does not need a closure of the criminal case, just a suspension, which will give him time to get a reliable team together. Now Kocharyan’s most expensive resource is time. Before Pashinyan gets the PM seat on legal grounds after the early parliamentary election, Kocharyan is in relative safety. The ex-president does not have time to take part in the election himself.

The issue of Kocharyan's team is paramount. The bet is placed on youth, based on the experience of street fighting, demonstrated by Pashinyan. Kocharyan’s words that a political party will be created virtually from scratch have a double meaning. The desire to choose the updated team and the environment, whom Kocharyan know is a half-truth. The ex-president's low popularity is caused by his direct connection with the Karabakh clan, which had turned Armenia into a corrupt state with a semi-criminal government for 20 years. People abroad, primarily in Azerbaijan, which links the name of the ex-president to active participation in the Karabakh war, have the meanest opinion of Kocharyan. Kocharyan personifies the war party, including among his former fellow-Azerbaijanis. Therefore, Kocharyan wants fundamentally new people to his team, who do not tarnish their reputation with accusations of ties with the previous leadership of the republic. In his youth, Kocharyan succeeded as a Komsomol worker in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan SSR.

One way or another, if hopes still have been placed in the efforts of Pashinyan in finding a possible peaceful solution to the Karabakh problem, then the return of Armenia's gray cardinal Kocharyan to the big politics will definitely lead to a final return to the endless military confrontation.

Kocharyan will not miss the opportunity and will take advantage of the mistakes of Pashinyan’s supporters, including the breakdown of his press conferences, as well as limited opportunities in public speaking. Kocharyan creates an image of a persecuted politician who has something to say and scares Pashinyan. If Kocharyan remained in power, Pashinyan would have no chance to make the velvet revolution, including to carry out political activities in general, the former president argues.

The last thing, Kocharyan is interested in pitting Moscow and Pashinyan against each other. The only success of the ex-president is that he has managed to gain the support of influential forces in Russia over the years of his presidency. Kocharyan did not give Moscow any reason to suspect him of conducting a double game. Pashinyan, and especially his closest associates, have given plenty of such reasons. Therefore, it is vital for Pashinyan to prevent a crisis in relations with Moscow and the escalation of the Karabakh conflict, because only using the "inexperienced" prime minister's possible failure in Karabakh, Kocharyan will be able to push Pashinyan into political oblivion.