Focus Should Remain on Governance Rather Than Regime Change

An armed group called “Sasna Tser” (Daredevils of Sassoon) recently seized the Erebuni police station in Yerevan, taking several policemen hostage and calling for the resignation of Armenian President Sarkisian and the release of prisoner Jirair Sefilyan, who is charged with the illegal procurement, transportation, and storing of weapons. The armed group is comprised of former soldiers who fought in the Karabagh War.

A scene from a recent protest in Yerevan calling for President Serge Sarkisian's resignation (Photo: Photolure)
A scene from a recent protest in Yerevan calling for President Serge Sarkisian’s resignation (Photo: Photolure)

Violence must be condemned. Change through forced coercion sets a dangerous precedent.

The actions of the armed group have given rise to subsequent demonstrations and clashes with police. Citizens are rightly frustrated about a range of issues in Armenia, including corruption and governance, and are expressing their discontent.

Civil society in Armenia has been increasingly active, whether it be in response to prices rises in electricity and transport, or to the brutal murder of a family of seven in Gyumri, committed by a deserter from the city’s Russian military base.

Regime change will not immediately bring about the change the citizens and demonstrators want; regime change may eventually occur, but what is required in the first instance is real governance change.

In other words, combating corruption seriously includes overhauling the current Anti-Corruption Council and Commission and appointing a new leadership, fully independent of the current apparatus. The prosecution of alleged corruption should take place in a special court that can administer punishments and serious penalties should breaches be found. This should occur noting the state of Armenia’s judiciary today—Armenia’s ombudsman has claimed that the system is corrupt from top to bottom.

There needs to be a strengthening of civil society including fostering a healthy investigative journalism model, an effective way to create accountability and transparency. This should include a funded independent public broadcaster. Television is the main medium in Armenia, and most of its channels are controlled or friendly with the government, as broadcast media requires a license.

Armenia needs to address voter fraud seriously. Last month, the National Assembly approved major amendments, including having cameras at polling stations and improved voter identification. These amendments were dependent on foreign donors, who paid for the purchase of special equipment—a poor reflection of the government’s commitment.

There exists a lack of competition in certain staple commodity markets in Armenia, including wheat flour and sugar. Beginning in 2004, a monopoly in sugar has constantly controlled over 90 percent of the market, reaching 99.9 percent in 2011.1 For wheat flour, an essential staple, monopolists earned $110 million in pre-tax profits in 2014 alone, charging a 93-percent markup.2 Agencies responsible for fair competition need to take proper and real action.

Armenia must address its governance issues seriously and aggressively. One cannot build a solid home without a strong foundation. Governance reform for Armenia must be treated in this context. Regime change alone will not be effective until Armenia builds a strong foundation.


1 Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation, Monopolies in Armenia, February 2013.
2 Policy Forum Armenia, Monopoly Profits in the Wheat Flour Market in Armenia, June 14, 2016.


Sassoon Grigorian is the author of the forthcoming book, Smart Nation: A Blueprint for Modern Armenia, published by the Gomidas Institute.


Sassoon Grigorian

Sassoon Grigorian is a corporate affairs professional and has worked in leading global technology companies. Grigorian formerly worked in the New South Wales (NSW) state government as an adviser to a former NSW Premier. He serves on the Boards of the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) and the National Center for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (NCAPEC), and is co-founder of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association’s (AIMIA) Digital Policy Group.


  1. Armenia needs work ,they need factories and businesses for people to be able to make a descent living. They also need higher wages. And they need a justice system without corruption that works equaly for every body. If they have this much people would be more happier.

  2. Regime change to what? Other corrupt people to take over?

    “Governance issues” for reform, must be addressed and now. Punish those who have created the atmosphere of corruption, starting with the first president. Currently regime change is not the answer.

  3. Amazingly naive commentary. The violence has been penetrated by the regime, the government, which is in bed with this paper’s political party, and every attempt to implement the changes recommended by Mr. Sassoon are met with aggression and use of force. Now Mr. Grigorian-Dove is reciting all the issues for which we in Armenia have been fighting, with bare hands against brutal police force and criminal gangs controlled by the gov’t and its cronies – Lfiks, Tokhmakhs, Shmices, Liskas, Sashiks, etc, and suggesting to do what???? Give us a break. Do something real, aside from getting into bed with criminals and calling it governance, or simply don’t miss an opportunity to shut up. Thanks!

  4. And can you explain how is it possible to have a better governance with a corrupt installed regime? You wrote so many words more than needed to express your naive thought.

  5. There are many qualified and honest people in Armenia who can actually govern rather than loot Armenia. However, any time they raise their heads and say something – they find themselves arrested and maligned. People are scared. When they try to do something, they get no support and Diaspora largely sides with the thieves that destroyed our country. It’s a small country. We have less people than probably a residential building in China and the regime has to be criminal and stupid to so fundamentally screw Armenia up.

  6. Stopping corruption, taking to court the robbers who creared the economic malaise for the Armenians of Armenia, and reverse the agreements the president may have made for the return of lands that have always belonged to Armenia. He is only custodian, and not owner. Hopefully can be achieved without regime change for now. In case we forget, Violence befits Turkey. Not Armenia.

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