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.