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2016, 07 Dekabr, çərşənbə, Bakı vaxtı 00:17

The Next Armenian Government: The Outlook For Nagorno Karabakh


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian announces his decision to appoint Hovik Abraamian as Armenia's new prime minister, Yerevan, 13Apr2014.

Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian announces his decision to appoint Hovik Abraamian as Armenia's new prime minister, Yerevan, 13Apr2014.

By Richard Giragosian

Since the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian on April 3, Armenia has been without a sitting government. But with the recent decision by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian to name parliamentary speaker Hovik Abrahamian as the nominee for the country’s next premier, a new government is to be formed within the coming three weeks. Yet from a broader perspective, there are several important implications, including the outlook for foreign policy in general, and at least potentially, for the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as well.
Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC)

Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC)

The first direct implication stems from the composition of a new government. While the resignation of the premier prompted the automatic dismissal of the government, the Armenian constitution now requires the new nominee to form his own cabinet within three weeks of being confirmed by parliament.

But as the new government is widely expected to focus more on domestic economic issues than on foreign policy options, and as the ministers of defense and foreign affairs are most likely to return to their previous posts, there is little indication of any real or sudden shift in policy.

Second, well beyond this important development is the deeper and rather unprecedented degree of change, however. Against the backdrop of an unusual degree of dynamic change and choices, Armenian foreign policy has also shifted, in both terms of the nature of the country’s strategic alliance and strategic orientation. This was obvious in the case of the Armenian president’s surprise decision to forego an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of seeking to join the Russian-dominated Customs Union.

Yet on a more specific level, there are few signs of any real change. As Armenia’s strategic partnership with Russia remains unchallenged, the real danger for Armenia
And for the more fundamental elements of Armenian foreign policy, the twin pillars of Nagorno Karabakh and Turkey remain largely unchanged.
now is from a deepening of dependence on Russia. And this danger is only exacerbated by Armenia’s vulnerability from being hostage to Russian policies elsewhere, such as its aggression against Ukraine, for the most prominent example. In this way, Armenia is in danger of becoming a “captive nation” isolated on the “wrong side of history” and imprisoned behind what seem to be Russian President Putin’s desire to reconstruct a new “iron curtain.”

And for the more fundamental elements of Armenian foreign policy, the twin pillars of Nagorno Karabakh and Turkey remain largely unchanged.

Over the longer term, however, Armenian foreign policy may become less static and much less resistant to change, for at least two distinct reasons. First, the political transition now underway implies a much deeper and dynamic end of a political era, as one elite gives way to another. This transition of elites is evident in the absence of any clear successor to incumbent President Sarkisian, now in his final second term. Further, the president is Armenia’s “last of the Mohicans,” personifying the last remnant of a powerful political elite, with its origins from Nagorno Karabakh. Yet the emergence of this specific Karabakh elite was due to more than its shared origins, but rather, was rooted in its ability to leverage the Karabakh war to come to power and to force out moderate policies in favor of a more militant posture.
Russia -- President Dmitry Medvedev (C) at a meeting with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Serzh Sarkisian (R) and Ilham Aliyev in Sochi, 23Jan2012

Russia -- President Dmitry Medvedev (C) at a meeting with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Serzh Sarkisian (R) and Ilham Aliyev in Sochi, 23Jan2012

But now, despite its power and position, the political standing of the Karabakh elite is clearly waning. And as the façade of nationalist politics and posturing no longer works in Armenia, the transition now underway is also much more open and visible, marked by a new round of competition between rival factions, with each preparing and positioning themselves as the inheritors of the mantle of power from the Karabakh elite.

And the recent selection of parliamentary speaker Hovik Abrahamian as the nominee for the country’s next premier is also noteworthy as he embodies a particular faction within this new emerging elite. While the new political elite will have neither the record nor the baggage of experience in Karabakh, this may equally suggest two contradictory scenarios. For one, the absence of any direct connection or political lineage from the Karabakh issue may offer a fresh degree of policy options. But perhaps more likely, their lack of nationalist credentials may limit their capability for any bold moves on the Karabakh issue.

Thus, the outlook for Nagorno Karabakh seems to be a continuation of the current stalemate, with all sides to this conflict ever far apart. The real prerequisite for any substantial progress may increasingly rest on the need for strategic vision, statesmanship and political will, each of which depends on greater democracy in both Armenia and Azerbaijan first.

Richard Giragosian is the director of Yerevan based Regional Studies Center (RSC). The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.
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