Publicity stunt or political sacrifice?: President’s fury at PM…

Publicity stunt or political sacrifice?: President Sargsyan’s fury at
PM Sargsyan follows PAP `revelations’

Politics | 20.09.12 | 10:37

By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

The implications of the extraordinary consultations held by President
Serzh Sargsyan with the government last weekend have been the main
point of discussions within Armenia’s political circles this week.

Despite initial qualifications of the event as merely a publicity
stunt ahead of next February’s presidential elections in which
Sargsyan will try to retain his office, some analysts now also see the
possibility of more serious consequences for the political lineup
after the Saturday meeting.

The criticism voiced during those `consultations’ at which the
president scolded the government and in fact lambasted the prime
minister was not the first to be heard from the head of state. But the
timing of it made it sound more serious taking into account the
context of the recent developments when the Prosperous Armenia Party
(PAP), the former coalition partner of Sargsyan’s ruling Republican
Party of Armenia (RPA), every now and then and at different levels
would excoriate Prime Minister Sargsyan for mishandling the economy,
encouraging corruption and nepotism.

Many do not rule out that at this stage it is more advantageous for
President Sargsyan to sacrifice Prime Minister Sargsyan for further
political gains.

This time the president made stricter remarks. `It’s time we stopped
being content with only dismissals or reprimands,’ he said, hinting at
the possibility of prosecution for abuse by government officials.

After the economic crisis of 2009 when Armenia registered the second
steepest economic decline of former Soviet states, after Ukraine, of
more than 14 percent, Prime Minister Sargsyan became the main target
of criticism for the opposition.

After the parliamentary elections last May when the PAP fell short of
its target to poll enough votes to be able to install a prime minister
of its own, different echelons of the party launched a campaign
against Prime Minister Sargsyan.

The last shot in the standoff between Prime Minister Sargsyan and PAP
Chairman Gagik Tsarukyan was fired by the newly appointed spokesman
for the PAP Tigran Urikhanyan, who accused the prime minister of
letting only his relatives and friends win government tenders.

`I think it is time that our society learned about all that is
discussed on the political backstage every day, that is that only
Tigran Sargsyan’s brother, brother-in-law, uncle and his other
relatives and favorites are entitled to `win’ in tenders, that as we
speak irrigation water pipes of the Masis-Echmiadzin section are being
dismantled at Tigran Sargsyan’s brother’s instruction, which deprives
farmers from the possibility of irrigating their gardens, as the prime
minister’s brother has decided to build a hydropower plant. We will
speak much more openly and publicly about the Nairit [chemical
plant’s] saga, about those who are really responsible for the import
from India of buffalo meat that was for quite a long time sold as beef
in Armenia and many other things,’ warned Urikhanyan.

It was, perhaps, far from being a coincidence that the president’s
consultations with the government focused on abuses in the system of
state procurement and government tenders, and a few days before that
the president issued a decree sacking deputy head of the General Staff
of the Armed Forces of Armenia, Lieutenant-General Artashes Paytyan,
who had long been notorious for supplying buffalo meat to the army.

`This is just a PR campaign, a response to the accusations from
Urikhanyan, just to show that `yes, we do know and will punish those
responsible’, but it is still unclear how far this punishment will
go,’ political technologist Armen Badalyan told ArmeniaNow.

Head of the Union of Political Scientists of Armenia Hmayak
Hovhannisyan, who was on the proportional party list of the PAP during
the latest parliamentary election, but after being elected to the
National Assembly was `coaxed’ into giving up his seat, believes that
`the presidential `consultations’ were not only a publicity stunt, but
also a clear message to the PAP.’

`The main goal of the PAP is to get the prime minister’s position, and
President Sargsyan may grant this wish in exchange for the future
support from Tsarukyan,’ Hovhannisyan told ArmeniaNow.

Many analysts do not exclude that President Sargsyan will make a
scapegoat out of Prime Minister Sargsyan to win Tsarukyan’s favors and
this, in turn, will clear the way for the political comeback of former
president Robert Kocharyan, who is believed to be the PAP’s
`godfather’.

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