Another President Sarkissian

By the time you read this, the Republic of Armenia will formally know who its new, fourth president will be come April. He is the second one named Sarkissian—first name Armen this time.

Armen Sarkissian (Photo: Hurriyet)

What would normally be a happy, or at least welcomed, development can only be greeted with much caution and trepidation. The first three presidents share one major commonality, overseeing and maintaining a corrupt, suboptimal system of government (not to be confused with what is the official, constitutional, structure of government). This is why I am not celebrating.

The very fact that he was put forth by the current President Sarkisian and his Republican Party makes one suspicious. Remember, the republic’s president will be elected by parliament and not directly by citizens under the new constitution. It’s natural to expect that they would only nominate someone who would think and behave as they do. This concern would have applied regardless of who it was that was nominated, and is not limited to Armen Sarkissian.

But there are signs that this president might be different. For starters, he will not have the unfettered power of his predecessors. The new constitution, adopted in Dec. 2015 rendered the president much more of a figurehead, though with some ability to counter the actions of the parliament and the government it creates and some authority on the international front. This will prevent anyone holding the office from conducting the functions of government from heading up a system as dirty as what we have witnessed.

There is also the fact that Armen Sarkissian has spent over two decades outside of Armenia while serving as its ambassador to Great Britain and in other international capacities. Some people have argued that this makes him somehow less qualified to become resident. I don’t see that connection. If anything, having spent the time outside the day-to-day corruption pervading Armenia may have developed different, more desirable, sensibilities in him when it comes to governance, than his peers in-country.

This second president (elect) Sarkissian is also a successful businessman. Between terms as ambassador to Britain, he used his training to make a living in the (then) relatively new industry of electronic games. His wealth may serve to inoculate him from the temptation to use the high office he is about to hold as a means of enriching himself.

He has familial ties in the Diaspora. That sort of contact may also mitigate some of the worst habits developed by people living in the Soviet system, though this is no guarantee since we have the example of the first president, Levon Der Bedrossian (Levon Ter Petrosyan), who was himself one of the Armenians who had repatriated from the Diaspora but was responsible for establishing the corrupt system now bedeviling the country.

The most direct, though still somewhat tenuous, evidence that Armen Sarkissian might be a different sort of leader is what he did once it was clear he would be the ruling, majority, party’s nominee. He went around meeting and holding discussions with the various poles of power, interest groups, institutions, etc. that are important in the life of the country. This might have been only for show, but hopefully, it was more than just that. If he was indeed listening and initiating good relations with these sectors of society, taking their concerns to heart, then maybe he will be a different, better, leader than what Armenians have dealt with for a quarter century.

Plus, if he has a backbone and is right-thinking, he can use the bully-pulpit of the presidency to push the discourse, and hopefully eventually the practice, of government in our homeland in a direction that is less corrupt and more oriented to serving the public at large rather than his own and the crooked oligarchs’ pockets.

The question now is, what can we, the Diaspora, do to enable this man’s better angels to manifest themselves?


Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.

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  1. What an arrogant, baseless article.
    This article provided no notion of value whatsoever.
    The ‘writer’ writes off the people of Armenia because they lived in a Soviet system and because of this are automatically corrupted. These are the same people who ,for better or worse, have built the country. The children of these people are developing the country and we should all be proud of what has been acheived in such a short space of time (has the writer’s host country materially improved since 1991?).
    Then you point out that Levon (a diasporan) should have been an angel but without point out that his family repatriated in 1946 (the year he was born).
    I could go on

    • Let’s all close our eyes and ears and praise Serjik lest we hurt the feelings of those who are “developing” the country! The only baseless thing here is your comment. We all have the right to criticize what is wrong and that has nothing to do with where we live or who we are. I have absolutely no doubt that the country where he lives, namely The United States of America, has materially improved since 1992. In fact, the US does not need much improvement since it is already UNDOUBTEDLY the wealthiest country in the world.
      The good news is that diaspora is finally waking up to the truth. The old notion that lets not make our enemies happy by talking about Armenia’s problems, is now obsolete. And the truth is extremely painful. Armenia is buried in foreign debt, much of the loans they have acquired in the last 10 years have been used to feed obedient civil servants who constantly vote for Serjik and the oligarchs, instead of spending on infrastructure. According to UN estimates, Armenia’s population is aging and will inevitably fall to 1.5 million in a few decades. The youth who are the backbone of the society are leaving. Economic growth has been mostly flat in the last decade. Is this the “development” you are talking about?

  2. Truth is that this so-called “president” will have zero authority. He will have an office with a few dozen staff but will do nothing. To put it mildly, another burden on Armenia’s taxpayers and another phony character in Serjik’s sham of democracy. The fact that he represented Serjik for years in London is enough to assume that he is no different from the rest of oligarchy in Armenia. Soon we will have our own Aliyev in Armenia. So stop pointing your finger towards Azerbaijan or Turkey. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!

  3. The fact of the matter is they were no less corrupt than any US President. When Hussein Obama became president his net with was 1.3 million dollars by the time he left office he was worth over $100 million. At least these 3 ex presidents of Armenia kept Armenia safe and secure. As far as Armenian nationals leaving the country it’s the fault of the American staff who promise these poor starving Armenians who haven’t contributed a penny to our social security or our country access to food stamps, section 8 housing, social security benefits etc etc. how can a country with no natural resources compete with such incentives for its citizens to stay.
    Stop serving Kool Aid/ democrap twist to the General public.
    Out of the 3, Ter Petrosyan was able to liberate Artsakh and Pre. Kocharian and especially Sargsyan kept the country secure and safe.

  4. Should there be a reason as why this heavily overweight person was elected to be the next “President of Armenia”?, is it maybe the current sarkisian is hopping that this new sarkissian will drop dead or he will some how will be eliminated(assassinated) in few months and he “the Oligarch sarkisian” will again move himself back to the president seat???

  5. Wow, those are some angry replies!
    The tone of the article is optimistic. And it’s very appropriate given a new start to a presidency in our homeland. Let’s be hopefully.

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