Bagrat Asatryan: "Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an obstacle to development of Armenia"
Anniversary of the beginning of velvet revolution in Armenia is approaching. During this revolution, oppositionist Nikol Pashinyan and his supporters managed to organize mass protests of citizens against self-appointment of ex-President Serzh Sargsyan to the post of republic’s prime minister and forced Sargsyan to resign, thus opening the way for Pashinyan to reach highest post in the country. Former head of the Central Bank of Armenia, Bagrat Asatryan, discussed state of Armenian society and economy after the year of "velvet revolution" in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- In your opinion, how did internal political situation in Armenia change since Nikol Pashinyan came to power?
- Today's Armenia doesn't try to hide existing political conflicts, if they appear. This was obvious during recent parliamentary elections. There are a lot of opinions in society on various fundamental issues of Armenia's development, including opinions of forces that aren't represented in the parliament, they are still actively voicing their position. But current system doesn't allow such conflicts to lead to anything terrible. All existing problems of Armenia, including the Karabakh problem, haven't gone anywhere, there's a confrontation between various approaches to those problems, but, in my opinion, these conflicts only contribute to development of the country.
We're looking at internal political situation so positively for a pretty simple reason - in previous decades, Armenian authorities weren't represented in society at all. The Republican Party of Armenia, with Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan as its leaders, was an artificial structure, which had no support among common people. The RPA"s results at December elections prove that, since this party received less than 5% of votes. If it weren't for criminal system, bribes and use of administrative resources, this party wouldn't have received significant number of votes even before 2018. As a result, society got tired of the RPA, which pursued only personal motives of enrichment and wasn't working on development of Armenia. That's why this revolution happened. Ideologically, the RPA had no face, it couldn't decide whether its members were nationalists, socialists or liberals. Other parties at least represent something, but it was simply a party of power, criminal power. People like that never have political ideology.
Now we have other problems - new force that came to power must be politicized. It reached its current state thanks to emotions, emotions played a huge role in its victory, but new political process will begin with formation of factions. Traditional parties, which have either large or insignificant place in the parliament, will remain, and situation similar to what happened in 1990 will occur. At that time, there was an anti-communist force - the Armenian National Movement, which didn't even have majority in parliament, but took necessary responsibility. Subsequently, considerable part of members of this party were later represented in domestic political field of Armenia, even after leaving it. I think that we will see something similar in the near future.
- How much did the influence of Western countries on Armenian politics grow during this period?
- Basically, Armenian society is Western society, we have common roots with European civilization. If we talk about cooperation of Armenia in the framework of the EEU and the EU, then working with both sides is an optimal model for us. Our biggest problem as member of the Eurasian Union is the fact that we don't share borders with other members. Trends in the European economic development are very healthy, and Armenia’s cooperation with Europe will only bring benefits. We're Europeans, our entire legal system is European, our way of thinking is also European. At the same time, I don't think that this rapprochement with the EU will noticeably manifest in the near future. Right now we need to achieve the level of good-neighborly and mutually understanding relations.
- Did economic situation in Armenia really improve in conditions of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
- Former authorities, Kocharyan and Sargsyan, used this conflict for their own gains, and due to that Armenia couldn't grow, even though pockets of those in power grew at a rapid pace. By the beginning of 2018, most of the republic’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of deputies and government members. At the same time, process of impoverishment of society became more acute than ever - in the same period, about a third of the republic’s population was below the poverty line. If you walk around Yerevan, you can clearly see it - poverty in residential areas, expensive foreign cars near the government and parliament buildings.
Of course, some problems can be resolved without resolving the conflict - problem of monopolization of business, problem of politics affection business. Structural transformations can really help to resolve these issues. But, of course, we understand that globally, no country involved in existing military conflict can develop quickly and dynamically. Whether we like it or not, we're burdened by huge military expenditures. And peace will be achieved, these resources can be spent on culture, education and social reforms. So naturally, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an obstacle to development of Armenia.