Nouvelles d'Armenie    


At a Rally in Freedom Square, Yerevan

November 16, 2007

(85,000 people in attendance)

Dear Compatriots :

First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the parties and civil society organizations whose leaders made announcements a little earlier supporting my candidacy. Some of them have been my and my administration’s harshest critics. Therefore, what makes them join us today on this podium is not their unreserved confidence in my character, but the imperative of throwing off the yoke of Armenia’s present bandocratic regime, and restoring the country’s constitutional order.

I turn now to you - the free citizens who have come to this symbolic square - saluting your will to struggle, and your resolve to shape the future of the country with your own hands, and I would like to have a friendly talk with you on issues that are of concern to all of us. In my last address, I pledged to provide clarification, while on the campaign trail, on every single allegation raised against Armenia’s former leadership, on so many occasions over the last fifteen years, but more often and more intensively during the ongoing pre-election season. At this rally, I will take the opportunity to address some of these allegations in much detail, leaving the remainder for another occasion.

Years of Cold and Darkness

Before addressing this unfortunate topic itself, I must suggest a few factual clarifications. Although, thanks to the consistent efforts of our wise opponents and to Kocharyan’s Goebbels-style propaganda machine, the label “years of cold and darkness” has come to apply to the entire period of rule by Armenia’s former administration, these years in reality were limited to 1992 to 1994 only. The mere recollection of precisely which years those were reveals an amazing astronomical alignment with the years of the Artsakh war. The war began on May 9, 1992, with the liberation of Shushi, and ended on May 12, 1994, with the establishment of the ceasefire. This fact alone would be enough for any rational person with greater or lesser familiarity with world history to figure out, without tremendous effort, why it would have been dark and cold in Armenia during that period. During World War II, it was dark and cold not only in the entire Soviet Union, but also in England, France, Greece and the rest of the nations involved in the war. In England, for instance, a thousand times more trees were cut down during that period than in Armenia during its own years of cold and darkness ; I am not even talking about the horrors of the blockade of Leningrad. Yet, in no other country would it occur to anyone to call the war years “years of cold and darkness” or for some places “years of hunger and epidemics” as well. Such a brilliant idea could only occur in the minds of Armenians, so incredibly proud of our three thousand years of civilization.

Our opponents stubbornly reject, or faintheartedly ignore, any connection between the years of cold and darkness, and the Artsakh war. They explain cold and darkness using entirely different reasons. Let us address some of the most commonly referred to among these.

The most bizarre view, as always, was expressed by Robert Kocharyan a few years ago. He believes that Armenia’s energy crisis was absolutely not caused by the war and blockades, but was the result of the Karabakh Committee’s shortsighted decision earlier to shut down the Armavir Nuclear Power Plant. Though a misconception, this can be excused, given the circumstances. Being outside Armenia, Kocharyan might have been unaware that at the time of the closure of the nuclear station in January 1989, all eleven members of the Karabakh Committee, plus Igor Muradyan and Khachik Stamboltsyan, were locked up in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina and Butyrka jails. He might also have been unaware that the decision to shut down the nuclear station had been made by his beloved Nikolay Rizhkov and Suren Harutyunyan [1] . And finally, it is quite possible that some day Kocharyan might just go out and declare that he was the one who reopened the nuclear power station. And don’t be surprised when it turns out that many people are inclined to believe that.

The next bizarre view in connection with the energy crisis alleges that during the years of “cold and darkness” Armenia’s authorities deliberately grounded the electricity that was being generated, in order to profit from the sale of fuel oil and candles they had imported earlier. It is understandable when an ordinary person says such a thing. But when a professor at Yerevan State University - a historian with a deserved reputation within the academic community - does so, with a stern face and an attitude of judgment, before thousands of television viewers, one cannot but become completely disillusioned with the Divine Creation. That professor had probably skipped his 6 th or 7 th grade physics class on the Law of Preservation and Transformation of Energy. Very well -we all have skipped classes - my grandson skips classes today. But was it so difficult for that professor to visit the neighboring Department of Physics, and consult any physics professor there, or even a first year student, if you will ? The answer, of course, would have been supplied at once : grounding high-voltage electricity lines would have caused all of the safety fuses on Armenia’s power grid to blow out.

At first glance, the other accusation raised against former leadership in connection with the energy crisis may seem to be more credible. It alleges that the “years of cold and darkness” were the result of the embezzlement that was “uncovered” of several hundred millions of dollars in the power generation sector during the so-called “fuel oil guzzling”, to put in parliamentary Latin. As proof, it is cited that Armenia generated equal amounts of electricity in 1993 and 1996, but there were scheduled shutoffs in 1993, whereas no such shutoffs occurred in 1996. And our opponents aren’t satisfied with the explanation that from 1992 to 1994 the lion’s share of the electricity generated in Armenia was supplied to industry ; that under the scheduled supply, the low-cost electric power was carelessly used not just for lighting, but for heating and powering various consumer appliances as well ; that in 1996 the Nuclear Power Station was back in operation and unlike in 1993, huge volumes of energy commodities - gas, oil, diesel fuel-were being imported to Armenia ; that in 1996 heating had been restored to most of the apartment complexes in the nation’s major population centers, energy reform had been carried out, and illegal power lines had been done away with, and so on. Not to tire you, I will not go into further detail on these events and realities. They have been exhaustively addressed by former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan in numerous articles and interviews, and not only have his conclusions not been disproved by expert economists-they haven’t even been disputed.

Where, then, do these rumors of hundreds of millions of dollars of embezzled wealth in the power generation sector come from ? Well, it turns out from nowhere but the conclusions of the special commission established by the previous convocation of the National Assembly. These conclusions were submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office, with a recommendation to launch corresponding criminal proceedings. The Office of the Prosecutor General thoroughly investigated the case, and not only found no corpus delicti in the actions of the previous authorities, but it did not even establish that any crime had occurred at all.

In any civilized nation, the rules of decency would require that the Prosecutor General and the members of the commission offer the former leadership, particularly Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, an official apology. That hasn’t happened, which indicates that Armenia is not a civilized nation yet. Instead, the esteemed commissioners and politicians linked to them have continued to insist to this day on the same allegations against the previous authorities, contrary to the Prosecutor’s decision. Meanwhile, logic would have demanded that they sue the Prosecutor General of the Republic for covering up the “monstrous crime” committed by the former authorities, and if unsuccessful, go on an indefinite hunger strike, setting up camp right on the carpet in his office. Why is it that His Holiness Vazgen I and Victor Hambartsumyan [2] , say, could go on a hunger strike in Moscow (I talked them out of it, by the way) in support of a just resolution to the Artsakh problem, but the brave members of the parliamentary commission are incapable of a similar sacrifice ? I’d rather not expand further, but willingly or not, this matter keeps moving all the time from the legal and political arena to the realm of morality.

An in-depth look at the issues at stake makes it obvious that the sole purpose of these allegations is to obscure the true causes of the energy crisis that befell Armenia, namely-the Artsakh war and the blockades. From 1992 to 1994, Armenia’s leadership directed whatever limited resources were available toward ensuring the survival and security of Artsakh, taking the risk of putting the citizens of the Republic through an ordeal, and, driven by the conviction that the principal economic objective of the nation was to support the war effort, ensuring the supply of arms, ammunition, diesel fuel, and medicine, the establishment of an air defense system, and the provision of food and clothing for the troops.

Although everyone is left with the impression that the war was happening in Nagorno Karabakh, the truth is Armenia too was directly involved in an undeclared war. For two years, Armenia’s entire border zone with Azerbaijan and Nakhijevan was subject to almost daily shelling, shooting, and destruction. Along the entire zone, from Voskepar to Meghri and to Yeraskh, every village saw its share of dead and wounded. Azerbaijan had essentially declared war against Armenia’s external communications as well. In the period of 1992 to 1995, the gas pipeline entering Armenia was blown up 42 times, and the Armenian-Georgian railway 21 times. There is no need to say what the extra cost of restoring communications was.

I am not in a position yet to declassify state secrets, but be assured -the funds spent on the war, procurement of arms, ammunition and diesel fuel, supplying the troops, defending Armenia’s border areas, and restoring disrupted communications would have been fully sufficient to ensure the round-the-clock supply of the population with power and heat. Serzh Sargsyan was Armenia’s Defense Minister from 1993 to 1995 ; he has full knowledge of these secrets, and cannot fail to confirm them all. To journalists present at this rally, I suggest : Ask him when you have the chance, and see what he says.

It may sound strange, but I am happy that the majority of our people consider the period of 1992 to 1994 years of “cold and darkness.” This means they did not experience the horrors of the war close to home. Yet for thousands of volunteers from Armenia and their families, as well as the population of our border zone, these were years of blood, dead and wounded, bombardment, and destruction - that was the sacrifice that it took to liberate Artsakh. What I just said about the unreserved commitment of the people and government of Armenia to the cause of Artsakh, as well as their hardship and suffering, is not an idle statement, but the truth, supported by the candid assessment made in the past by the Karabakh leadership.

Thus, President of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Robert Kocharyan wrote to me the following on January 9, 1995 : “The grateful people of Artsakh shall never forget your personal contribution to our heroic struggle for survival. We have always felt the backing and support of Mother Armenia, the Republic of Armenia.” ( Archives of the First President of Armenia, January 9, 1995 ) On another occasion in 1996, Robert Kocharyan expressed the same idea more eloquently : “Today the NKR is an established republic, with its own economy, combat-capable military, and domestic stability, and the advantage of respect of the international community. It is clear to us that all of this could hardly have been accomplished, if it weren’t for the backing of the Republic of Armenia... I would like to underscore the role of the President of the Republic Levon Ter-Petrossian in all of our accomplishments. Without his clear-cut position, without our mutually coordinated political steps, we would hardly have what we have. Everyone in Karabakh understands this, and I believe they do so in Armenia and the Diaspora as well.” ( Hayastani Hanrapetutyun, January 19, 1996 ) In order not to give the impression that this is just the opinion of one person, allow me also to quote Arthur Tovmasyan, former Chairman of the NKR National Assembly : “It is undeniable that our successes depend on Armenia’s able diplomacy and balanced policy. And of course, President Ter-Petrossian plays an important role in this difficult mission.” ( September 19, 1996 ). And Leonard Petrosyan, Prime Minister of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, stated the following in 1996 : “If the Armenians of Artsakh had the opportunity to participate in the presidential election of the Republic of Armenia, the absolute majority of them would vote for the candidate for President of the Republic of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian.”( Hayastani Hanrapetutyun, September 19, 1996 )

Future generations, I am convinced, will refer to the years of “cold and darkness” as the years of heroic struggle and victory in war. I realize, however, that my lengthy explanations are not going to ease everyone’s suspicions in any case. Therefore, it remains only to ask for our people’s forgiveness for the sufferings caused in the name of delivering Artsakh.

I am profoundly sorry to have had to speak so openly about the connection between Armenia’s energy crisis and our victorious war. In a normal country, that would have been such a taboo that each person would have felt offended to be reminded of it.

Roots of the Present Disgraceful Regime

I would like to briefly address another well-known allegation against the former authorities that has quite often been referred to recently. It asserts that the defects of the present regime stem from the times of the former leadership. This, I believe, is a most primitive trick used in political debate, designed to avoid responsibility and justify one’s own faults using historical precedents. This reminds me of the Evil King from Schwartz’s play [3] , who always blamed his actions on the bad genes he had inherited from his aunt.

By that logic, any crime can be justified, for there is no offense on the books that doesn’t have a precedent. By that logic, no thief should stand trial, for Adam and Eve were the first thieves, who tasted the forbidden fruit of Eden. No murderer should ever have stood trial since the crime of Cain. And no bribe-giver or bribe-taker should have stood trial after Jacob and Esau.

Every person, every authority, every public servant should take responsibility for his or her defects and crimes, and not blame them on genes inherited from the past. No healthy society, no court shall accept such reasoning. Therefore, Armenia’s former authorities stand responsible for their actions, and the current ones for theirs. In any event, we, the former, have never attempted to explain away our own defects by citing traditions inherited from the Soviet system, or furthermore - our national mentality, as Serzh Sargsyan put it. That kind of reasoning (or the “I’ve got something on you, too” trick) not only would be senseless, but would sound ridiculous, for if your predecessor was a bribe-taker, a thief, or a crook, what would stop you from not being the same ? When the principles of common street thieves penetrate the highest levels of government, woe is the nation...

Some people believe it does not go far enough to say that the defects of the current regime originate in the defects of the former, so they go even further, declaring that there is no difference between the past and present leadership. I attribute this either to the simplistic thinking I mentioned earlier, or to a lack of interest in a more in-depth understanding of things. There can be no similarity between the past and the present leadership for one simple reason. The former was a political authority ; the latter is a bandocracy. The former system of authority contained certain societal, political, and institutional balances, while no such balances exist within the present system. Under the former, balances even existed within the Executive. The Prime Minister and heads of key Ministries - Interior, National Security, and Defense ; directors of key agencies - Customs and Tax Service ; as well as the Chairman of the Central Bank, were all political figures, competing with and mutually controlling one another, in an important check against the formation of a monolithic power pyramid. Furthermore, they were under the constant oversight of the Parliament, which, unlike its successor convocations, was a manifestly political body. One only needs to recall the passionate discussions and political debates that unfolded in the Parliament then, or how difficult it was for bills introduced by the Executive to pass in the Parliament. To compare with today, the media domain was not monopolized, either ; there were several dozen opposition newspapers, and independent television and radio stations as well. There was yet another powerful balance during the former administration - the political opposition, the influence of which peaked on the wings of the movement led by Vazgen Manukyan in 1996.

As for the present regime, its origins, as I tried to explain in my last speech, coincided with the massacre of October 27, 1999. Having removed the tandem of Karen Demirchyan-Vazgen Sargsyan - the principal obstacle to the establishment of a centralized criminal system, the regime then step by step eliminated every single check and balance it saw as obstructing its illegal activities. The Executive branch was fully cleansed of the followers of Vazgen Sargsyan and Karen Demirchyan ; the Parliament was turned into a spineless and pathetic servant ; the political arena was obliterated ; and nearly the entire media domain was monopolized. In parallel, the Kocharyan regime gradually transformed itself into a closed, uncontrollable, bandocratic system, the existence of which would be impossible under a system of checks and balances. This process astoundingly closely resembles the process that led to the establishment of Stalin’s dictatorship. Taking advantage of the assassination of Kirov, his most serious competitor, Stalin succeeded in completely eliminating, from 1934 and 1937, all of the existing and potential counterbalances that presented a challenge to his tyrannical authority, after which his absolute domination began.

After all of this, we quite understandably expect to face a legitimate question : weren’t there any corrupt ministers, or abusers of official position, or any other illegalities committed under the former authorities ? Of course there were - how could they be avoided ? These phenomena exist in all societies, even the most law-abiding. These faults have accompanied humanity ever since the first state was established, and shall always exist in one form or another. But it is one thing to deal with isolated phenomena, individual transgressions, and quite another with group or organized crime. Figuratively speaking, it’s the difference between a lone prostitute and a house of prostitution, or an individual thief and a gang. Even the Criminal Code establishes different penalties for these - mild for the former, and far heavier for the latter. The former leadership, operating in conditions of war, an energy crisis, and economic shock therapy, did all they could to fight against these phenomena. And if we failed in our task, the current authorities, who had neither the desire, nor the Christian grace to forgive us, should have continued the fight,.

Very few might perhaps recall that my resignation in 1998 was accompanied by resignations of all high-ranking officials within the so-called former, ANM-led administration : National Assembly Speaker Babken Ararktsyan, Vice-Speakers Ara Sahakyan and Karapet Rubinyan, Chairs of Standing Parliamentary Committees Samvel Gevorgyan, Vigen Khachatryan, and Father Husik Lazaryan, Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanyan, Minister for Territorial Administration Galust Gamazyan, Mayor of Yerevan Vano Siradeghyan, Central Bank Chairman Bagrat Asatryan, Governor of Armavir Sedrak Hovhannissyan, Armenia Fund Director Manushak Petrosyan, Armenia’s Ambassador to France Vahan Papazyan, Presidential Advisors Vahagn Khachatryan, Nicol Shahgaldian, and Karen Shahinyan, Chief of Staff of the President Avetis Avagyan, President’s Press Secretary Levon Zurabyan, Chief of Personnel of the Office of the President Zhozef Avetissyan, Chief of Staff of the National Assembly Ashot Antinyan, and Editor-in-Chief of the official newspaper Respublica Armenia Armen Khanbabyan.

Such a unanimous resignation, such a political- and even moral - stance is perhaps unprecedented in the history of states : a stance unimaginable to expect from today’s criminal authorities, clinging to their chairs as they are. If the former authorities had committed any crimes, and were therefore concerned about possible criminal prosecution, why would they have stepped down so easily, realizing in all likelihood that the present authorities-narrow-minded, full of hatred and revenge-would spare no effort in trying to uncover crimes that had not been committed ?

They did indeed spare no effort. For several years, investigations were conducted in the spheres of activity of all the officials named, and including myself. Davit Vardanyan was specifically appointed Head of the President’s Oversight Service, to expose my “Mafioso” character. Several parliamentary commissions were established to investigate the alleged “abuses” committed by me, Hrant Bagratyan, and others. Pressure was brought to bear on people involved in investigations in the Prosecutor’s Office, no matter what the case, to extract testimonies against me, Bagratyan, Siradeghyan, and even my late brother Telman Ter-Petrossian, who had been the Director General of the “Hrazdanmekena” conglomerate since 1985. Nothing came of it - not even a hundred dollars of embezzled funds were discovered. Imagine what they would have done if they had succeeded in “uncovering” specific evidence - they would have simply torn us apart, destroyed us, hanged us right on this podium.

In this regard, Serzh Sargsyan represents a special case, deserving a separate discussion. He was the Minister of Defense from 1993 to 1995, the Minister of National Security from 1995 to 1996, and the Minister of Interior and National Security from 1996 to 1999. It was his responsibility, first of all, to uncover any misconduct within the civil service, to launch criminal probes when necessary and submit them to the Prosecutor’s Office and to the Courts, or at least to alert the President or the Prime Minister of illegalities involved ; he didn’t do any of that. There are four possible explanations why : a) he was an accomplice in the crimes that occurred ; b) he demonstrated criminal negligence in the conduct of official duties ; c) he was under-qualified for the job ; or d) he found no evidence of wrongdoing in the actions of previous authorities, but lacked the courage and honesty to officially refute the allegations brought against his colleagues. Let us agree-none of these assessments, whether taken separately or together, represent moral qualities appropriate to the future President of the Republic of Armenia. Indeed, I do not believe that an individual with such a distorted moral character even has the right to run for president.

The Country in Ruins that Kocharyan Inherited

So as not to tire you, I will only address one other allegation raised against us, and that will be the last of such issues that I plan to touch on in my speech today. A few days ago Robert Kocharyan made a statement claiming that the former authorities passed down to him a country in ruins, which, in the last ten years, has turned into a flourishing Garden of Eden. It may seem strange, but I am not going to respond to that absurd allegation, since no one but our esteemed President Robert Kocharyan himself settled that question some time ago, quite comprehensively. He did so not just in an ordinary statement or interview, but in a Cabinet decision and a Law passed by the National Assembly. It is the Law on the Program of the Government of the Republic of Armenia that I am referring to, which Kocharyan ratified with his signature on November 30, 1999. Here is what that historical document says, quite literally, about Armenia’s socio-economic and political situation under the former leadership :

“During the period since independence, Armenia has had a number of important accomplishments :

a) Tested financial stability, consistent and robust fiscal policy, controlled low inflation, and an open economy foreign economic policy ;

b) The establishment, through mass privatization, of a non-public sector, and its leading role in generating the nation’s GDP ;

c) The introduction of a system of local self-government, and the laying of foundations for its continued growth ;

d) Membership in international institutions-including financial institutions, broad opportunities for loans from these organizations on privileged terms, and Armenia’s positive reputation in these organizations ;

e) Significant assistance from various nations since 1992, attesting to Armenia’s international image as reliable partner ;

f) The overcoming of the energy crisis and the transformation of Armenia from an energy-deprived nation to an potential energy exporter ;

g) The consistent, albeit insufficient, growth of the economy since 1994 ;

h) The establishment of a capable military, the victory in Karabakh, and the ceasefire in effect since 1994 ;

i) The existence of key institutions necessary to support a democratic society and a market economy, and their orderly functioning ;

j) The adoption of the Constitution, and the gradual formation of the systems it sets forth ;

k) Freedom of speech and the press ;

l) A multiparty political system anchored in alternate views ;

m) The improving democratic character of elections at all levels, and responsible public participation in government ;

n) Armenia’s involvement and active participation in international, European, CIS, and regional frameworks. Significant positive changes have taken place in bilateral and multilateral relations, which has led to the establishment of friendly, mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation, the United States, European, Middle Eastern, and many other nations. Armenia has attached importance to combining regional cooperation with the peaceful settlement of conflicts. We are consistent in developing peaceful, mutually beneficial interstate economic relations with our neighbors.”

As you see, there is nothing here about a country in ruins, or any misconduct that occurred under the former leadership. And they say the present authorities have never provided a political assessment of their predecessors. Well, no former administration could dream of higher political marks than these. All that Kocharyan can do is curse the Sumerians, Phoenicians, and Mesrop Mashtots, for inventing writing, and thus placing him in this awkward situation. The written text, unfortunately for Kocharyan, is a monument - eternal and indelible. It is hardly a coincidence that the favorite saying of medieval Armenian authors was :

My hand shall turn into a handful of soil,

But my writing shall remain to tell my story.

Now - a few words about the issues of the day.

On the Presidential Election Campaign

The presidential election campaign season has now kicked off, albeit informally. Serzh Sargsyan essentially started his campaign on May 12 of this year - the day of the last parliamentary elections, and I did the same on September 21 of this year. Other likely candidates have at this moment limited themselves to unofficial statements regarding plans to run for the office. Since the campaign season appears to have begun, I deem it necessary to draw your attention to a few urgent matters.

Since 1995, all elections in Armenia have been-to put it mildly - both questionable and noisy. Subjective factors such as the arbitrariness of the authorities, election fraud, etc. aside, there has also been an objective underlying reason, the failure to overcome which shall prevent our country from ever conducting tranquil, trustworthy elections. I am talking about the principle by which election commissions are formed. Although at the first glance it appears as if multiparty commissions assure stronger adherence to democratic standards, the truth is they do not contribute to the conduct of free and fair elections.

Commission members representing the defeated parties usually do not accept the election results, and refuse to sign the concluding protocols.

Since they are not public servants, election commission members in fact carry no responsibility for violations committed during the elections and the vote count.

Almost every civilized country in the world follows a practice whereby the state conducts the elections, guaranteeing, of course, that the candidates’ proxies, political parties, and NGOs enjoy full and unimpeded oversight. In many countries, the election process is usually the responsibility of the Ministries of Interior. In other words, there is a clearly designated entity to be held responsible when there is election fraud.

If driven only by the fear of losing their jobs, civil servants as a rule do a more honest and decent job on the election commissions than party representatives, who are naturally interested in certain outcomes in the elections ; witness the Parliamentary elections in February 1990. Therefore, even if the system led by Hayk Harutyunyan [4] were to be put in charge of the upcoming Presidential election, we would likely have a cleaner and more legitimate election than under multiparty commissions.

I could never have made such recommendation during our time in office, for my opponents would have received it with hostility. The issue was once discussed among our supporters, and Davit Shahnazaryan presented it in the National Assembly, on the eve of the 1999 parliamentary elections, on behalf of the Republic faction. By the way, at my recent meeting with the leadership of the ARF, I learned that the Dashnaktsutyun too adheres to this view. Having said that however, it is clear that it will not be possible to make such a change before the upc oming presidential election, so for the time being, it will remain a theoretical question, which sooner or later, I am convinced, our lawmakers will address.

There are issues, however, that require urgent resolution. Although the most recent parliamentary elections were assessed positively by the international community, they were perhaps the most disgraceful in the history of our country, because electoral fraud was concealed with such ingenuity that not even the observers could detect it. During the elections, the authorities used the following methods :

First, approximately half a million extra ballots were printed and distributed among municipal workers, loyal businessmen, unofficial neighborhood bosses, and even criminals. On Election Day, these people brought voters to the polling stations in buses, distributed to them ballots that had already been marked, and after they had formally voted, paid them for their service and took possession of the unmarked ballot papers they had been given at the polling stations

Second, the authorities provided tens of thousands of people with fake passports or proof-of-residency papers, appropriately stamped, enabling them to vote a number of times at different locations.

These brilliant examples of election fraud, worthy of a reference in contemporary political science textbooks, could not, as I noted, be detected by observers or candidate proxies. But no matter how brilliant these tricks are, there are very simple ways to prevent this type of fraud from occurring. With your permission, and on behalf of this rally, I am going to officially appeal to the international observer organizations - the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), as well as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe with the following request or recommendation :

Urge or even compel the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia to make two changes to our country’s Election Code, as soon as possible :

· Ballots for the upcoming presidential and all future elections should be printed abroad, under the supervision of international organizations, in order to exclude the possibility of printing extra ballots.

· Voters’ index fingers should be marked with indelible ink as they cast their votes, as is done in many countries, which is the only way to ensure that nobody votes more than once.

In addition, it is my belief that observer organizations should assess the quality and results of elections based on monitoring not just for a period of one week before election day and on the day itself, but rather throughout the nearly three months that comprise the electoral process, noting and condemning all irregularities observed during that period.

If this is not done, the mission of international observer organizations in Armenia will lose its meaning and, moreover, the legitimization of elections won on the basis of fraud and violations will be facilitated.

In the meantime, I want to inform you that our own procedures are already in place to monitor the election process and record violations that may occur. We will, from now on, be releasing weekly bulletins on incidents of administrative, police and economic violence against our supporters, infringements of freedom of speech, and attempts by the authorities to intimidate the activists of this newly unfolding movement. In addition, separate briefs have been prepared on some of the most egregious cases, particularly the October 23 provocation, the economic terror against Khachatur Sukiasyan, and the attempt to dissolve the GALA TV station in Gyumri. We will be regularly providing these briefs to foreign Embassies and international organizations accredited to Armenia, as well as to the observer missions mentioned earlier.

We therefore appeal to you with this request : Report to us about this kind of coercion, intimidation, administrative, economic and tax pressure, by writing down detailed descriptions of these incidents, and submitting them to either the Armat Center (Byuzand Street 26, Yerevan), or the Office of the Levon Ter-Petrossian for President Civil Initiative (Yekmalian 16, Yerevan). Let me reiterate the warning I gave in my last address : let there be no doubt in the mind of any police officer, tax inspector, district administration employee, or unofficial neighborhood boss who infringes upon the will of the people - in four months, no one is going to escape legal responsibility.

At our last rally, I made public a small list of such officials, which I believe must be updated now with two more names for the time being : Vahram Barseghyan, Head of the State Tax Service, and Gorik Hakobyan, Head of the National Security Service. In addition, I should also recall Nerses Nazaryan, Yerevan Police Chief, who not only failed to draw lessons from the first warning, but also subsequently used physical force against young people distributing leaflets. If Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan do not fire this gendarme immediately, then they are the ones behind this violence.

Now, one more important topic, and we’ll be done.

On the Revanchism of the Former Leadership

Lately, our opponents, all the way up to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, have been entertaining the premise that my nomination is driven by revanchism on the part of the former leadership, particularly the ANM. This political absurdity could have only occurred in the minds of members of Armenia’s current regime or their disciples. In no normal, democratic society would it cross anyone’s mind to call the desire of a defeated political force to return to power revanchism. If anyone today declared, say, American Democrats, or British Conservatives, or French or German Socialists revanchist, that person would either be taken to court, or would have to retire from politics.

This Kocharyan-Serzh propaganda contains another absurdity as well. The propaganda machine puts itself in a laughable position, as it doesn’t realize that any allegation against the former system of authority directly involves Serzh Sargsyan, for he was one of its key members. In that regard, I find the allegations that Serge Sargsyan raised against the former leadership and me personally at the recent Republican Party congress more than strange, for they are nothing more than slander, or his own confession, especially given the fact that until the change of power in 1998, no one could recall him criticizing, or as they say - making a single “sour remark” directed against me. I leave it to you to think about the moral character of the person seeking the office of the President of Armenia. The further I go, the deeper is my conviction that I must indeed repent, and seek forgiveness for my sins. I therefore apologize, somewhat belatedly, but in all sincerity, for having brought Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan to Armenia and wrapping them around your necks. If I made mistakes in my personnel policy, I now confess : that was my greatest mistake. Indeed, it wasn’t a mistake, it was a calamity I brought down upon our people. Therefore, allow me - help me - to deliver you from that calamity.

Having said all this, in order to once and for all calm the fears of those people terrified by the prospect of our return or revanchism, I solemnly declare from this podium :

No well-known member of the Armenian National Movement has any claim to government office, or any other position of public authority. I will run not on the ANM’s, or any other party’s ticket, but as a candidate nominated by a civil initiative. My ultimate objective, and that of all political forces supporting me, is not to occupy high office, but solely to prevent the reproduction of Armenia’s current criminal regime. All we want is to have a normal, civilized state based on the rule of law, and to ensure the security, freedom and prosperity of our people, our children and grandchildren.

Therefore, to dispel any doubts about our motives, I formally declare the following : Exactly three years after assuming the office of the President of the Republic of Armenia, I will be prepared to forever retire from politics, giving you the opportunity to elect the country’s new President through a fully free and legitimate election. Further, I will not interfere in that election - it will be conducted by the Speaker of the National Assembly. I need three years to clean these Augean Stables, and put the state back on track. By “putting the state back on track,” I mean a comprehensive program of action, which I will present to you in future speeches and public statements.

As they say, I play with my cards face up - with no conspiracies or secret deals. In all my meetings with other political forces, I have made no bargains. I have simply laid out my views on the necessity of getting out of the current situation, and preventing the threat of reproduction of the Kocharyan regime. At my meetings with Stepan Demirchyan, Hrant Margaryan, Vazgen Manukyan, Raffi Hovhannissyan, Artashes Geghamyan, Arthur Baghdasaryan, and Lyudmila Sargsyan I have underscored that my only target during the upcoming campaign is whoever represents the authorities. I shall not engage in debates with other candidates, and shall not respond to their criticism and attacks.

I now appeal to every political figure I just mentioned (except for Stepan Demirchyan and Lyudmila Sargsyan, who have already made their positions clear), as well as to any other potential candidate, urging them, on behalf of this rally, to join this growing popular movement against the Kocharyan-Serzh bandocracy. All of us - my supporters and myself - are at your service. Use us as a tool to get rid of the criminal regime, and to realize your legitimate right to power, and all you need is to have patience for three more years, perhaps even less.

If this call of mine remains a voice in the wilderness, and if the opposition enters the election with fragmented ranks, then it shall only serve the interests of Serzh Sargsyan. If you do not heed this call, none of your reasoning or explanation shall touch the people’s hearts. Under such circumstances, naturally, the three-year term limit suggested in my offer above shall be considered null and void. My resolve is not at all dependent upon your answer, whether affirmative or not. I have entered this river, and I am not afraid of getting wet. I have thrown down the gauntlet, and I am going straight ahead till the end. Therefore : Struggle, struggle till the end !

I now wish to express my deepest gratitude to Nikol Pashinyan for conducting the rally, and to Alexander Afyan, Deputy Police Chief of Yerevan and designated police representative for this rally, for his upstanding conduct of official duties.

Good night.

[1] Nikolai Ryzhkov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSS (1985-1991) ; Suren Harutyunyan, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia (1989-1990).

[2] His Holiness Vazgen I, Catholicos o f All Armenians (1955-1994) ; Victor Hambartsumyan, astronomer and astrophysicist, president of the Armenian Academy of Sciences (1947-1993).

[3] The Ordinary Miracle (1956) by Russian playwright Yevgeny Schwartz (1896-1958)

[4] Hayk Harutiunyan, Head of the Police Service of the Republic of Armenia

dimanche 2 décembre 2007,
Stéphane ©

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