Notes From Hairenik

Yesterday former prime minister Serge Sargsyan was sworn in as president of the Republic of Armenia at a special parliamentary session held at the Opera House. He is the third president of the country since Armenia declared its independence in 1991. At various times in both the 1990s and during the last several years he served as defense minister. He was appointed prime minister one year ago just after Prime Minister Antranik Margaryan’s untimely death. Now he leads the Armenian state.

In his inauguration address he made several promises to the Armenian people that he would work as hard as possible to address the concerns of all citizens, reach out to those who are struggling, work towards continued nation building, strengthen the status of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and so forth. I caught a part of it on television last night and it was fairly boring. The man does not have much charisma, which perhaps may be better for a change. President Kocharian was notorious for hamming it up in front of the camera, making strange facial expressions and sporting smirks reminiscent of those exhibited by George W. Bush, while simultaneously making occasional statements that should have been better contemplated. But President Sargsyan seems to be more mature, more calculating and less spontaneous which is something Armenia probably needs right now.

He also briefly mentioned the events of March 1, that the “wounds are still fresh.” It is certainly true as people are still managing to protest as they did yesterday afternoon near the site of the chaos that unfolded adjacent to City Hall. President Sargsyan has a lot to do in a short amount of time. He has to win over the confidence of the vast number of citizens who have no faith in him whatsoever and who regard him as being a petty oligarchic-tyrant. These are the same people who say that “If Serge becomes president I will leave this country” and “Things will be bad under Serge.” He has a lot of cleaning up to do—he has to sweep away the mess that Kocharian left on the doorstep of the presidential residence. There are still a lot of angry people out there and rightfully so, and they blame Sargsyan just as much as Kocharian for the fiasco of six weeks ago. So he has to gain the confidence of the people and very soon; he has to prove that he can surpass in leaps and bounds everyone’s expectations and, most noteworthy, ensure that the downtrodden—namely those living in far-off rural parts of Armenia—start living better, fruitful lives. I estimate that he has a year to get the majority of citizens on his side, which I highly doubt he has now. Cracking down on corruption is something that is high on most everyone’s list of things for him to do. But seeing as the mayor of Yerevan—the one who has thrown the city into transportation mayhem with ludicrous, ill-planned road projects that are rumored to be money-laundering schemes—will apparently remain in office there is already cause for suspicion. The new president just announced that he would appoint the head of the Central Bank, Tigran Sargsyan (no relation), as prime minister, the same dude who is suspected of playing Russian roulette with the value of the dram.

There’s a lot of work to do, and he admitted as much in the closing words of his speech. Now we wait and see what the first of five years will bring. Yet having said that, renewed apathy by the people is unacceptable.


Blogger R said...
Sometimes having low expectations of a new leader is for the best. Leaders with a lot of charisma, a la Levon Ter Petrossian, can be dangerous.

What Armenia needs now is a good manager who will work toward strenghthening institutions and the sense of civic duty by citizens.

Your comment on Tigran Sargsyan manipulating the value of the dram is, frankly, wrong.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Why is my comment on Tigran Sargsyan "frankly wrong?" I am not the only one who says this. Similar statements, although perhaps more ambiguous, have been made by online news services such as RFE/RL and Hetq Online.

On Tuesday April 8 RFE/RL printed a story with the headline "Central Bank Chief Set To Become New Armenian PM." The article was obviously about Tigran Sargsyan and made some points about his background, including his stint with the Central Bank of Armenia. It read that:

"The CBA’s monetary policies have since drawn praise from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank but have repeatedly come under fire from opposition politicians and other government critics. In particular, they have blamed the Central Bank for recent years’ dramatic appreciation of the national currency, the dram."

There are other articles I can cite as well that make similar statements about the Central Bank's policies, specifically tying Sargsyan to them. Such information usually came from economists during interviews with the press. As a consumer I have had serious doubts about the dram's appreciation and I have written about that on this blog, giving examples as to why I have concerns. Something is wrong somewhere.

In any case, in the future when you accuse someone of being wrong, let them know why. Cite evidence to back up your claim or simply don't say such things.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
If anyone believes that the Central Bank wasn't maipulating the dram vs $US exchange rate I have a bridge I'd like to sell them over the Hrazdan Given the interlocking power structures in a country of merely 2.5 million this is more than just a probability.(Ramik)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I have never understood how the dram could remain so strong or rather keep getting stronger. I've been given confusing explanations that cite the high level of remittances from abroad, etc., but still don't understand this.

I understand how inflation in Armenia might be very high, but the prices have just become staggering. How can things be more expensive in Armenia than in other highly developed countries? And I certainly don't understand how real estate values could escalate so much so fast in a still poor country.

Can someone please explain this once and for all? Thanks!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Just for clarity, the RFE/RL article you quote merely reports that opposition critics claims that TS is manipulating. RFE/RL is not "saying" the same thing.

In any case, RFE/RL and Hetq have been firmly Pro-Levon and are not considered impartial by anyone I know.

Having said that, I agree that the dram-dollar relationship is complex, controversial, and dependent on many factors.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
To Anonymous,

Please don't make sweeping accusations like Rfe/RL and Hetq are "firmly Pro-Levon". They may be seen as leaning towards the opposition in the proportionality of their news coverage (given the preponderance of stat-run sites), but this doesn't translate into being Levon supporters....(Mher)