Books on Armenia
Update No: 321 - (26/09/07)
There is no bigger problem in the leadership of a state than who is to be the
successor. This is an urgent matter in Armenia, with elections to the presidency
only six months away.
President Robert Kocharian considers Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian his
worthiest successor and will therefore be supporting his long-time close
associate in next year's Armenian presidential election, his spokesman said on
Asked about who Kocharian would like to be succeeded by after completing his
second and final term in March, Victor Soghomonian, the presidential press
secretary, told reporters: "I think the president of the republic has
already named that person. The president has made it clear that he fancies the
current prime minister as the next president of the republic. It is obvious that
there is no other politician in Armenia who has that much experience and is
capable of performing [presidential] duties," Soghomonian said, referring
The remarks are the most explicit endorsement yet by Kocharian of Sarkisian's
presidential ambitions. The two men are both natives of Nagorno-Karabakh, having
led the Armenian-populated disputed territory during its secessionist war with
Azerbaijan before moving to senior government positions in Yerevan in the 1990s.
Kocharian and Sarkisian became Armenia's two most powerful men after the forced
resignation in 1998 of then President Levon Ter-Petrosian. They have since
worked together to weather many political storms and keep their political
opponents at bay.
Accordingly, few observers have doubted that Sarkisian is Kocharian's preferred
successor. But expert opinion is divided over whether Sarkisian would be willing
to let Kocharian retain a key government role in the event of his victory in the
presidential ballot. Hence, lingering speculation about friction between the two
Soghomonian could not say what he thinks the Armenian president would like to do
after his resignation. He also refused to comment on the decision by the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a junior partner in the
governing coalition, not to back Sarkisian for the presidency.
The fall-out for Nagorno-Karabakh
This is bad news for the Azeris. There is little chance of Sarkisian bending the
hard-line approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. This is a main reason why
Kocharian wants him as his successor. He will keep inviolate what he regards as
his main achievement, the de facto independence of the enclave. The longer it
lasts de facto, the better its chances of having it de jure.
The conflict is highly injurious to all parties. The embargo on trade with
Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey is doubly damaging to its hard-pressed economy.
The Azeris are supporting one and a half million emigres in effect, turfed out
of their homes in the early 1990s.
Unfortunately, there is no obvious way out of the impasse. The Azeris are
banking on their oil wealth to build up a far bigger army, and far better
equipped, than anything the Armenians can put in the field. But, alas, there is
a power with even more oil wealth, and a far larger and better equipped army,
that will assuredly back Armenia in any showdown, Russia, as it did last time.
As with the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, the situation is crying out for a
statesman in the De Gaulle class, who settled the Algerian problem. Alas, they
do not come along very often.