‘We Have Not Engaged in Populism,’ Says ARF Armenia Leader


In an extensive Facebook Live interview with Azatutyun.am on Monday, the chairman of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia Ishkhan Saghatelyan answered a wide range of questions from Facebook members and anchor Narine Ghalechyan about the current constitutional impasse, the party’s posturing on domestic issues as well as the situation in Artsakh.

Late last week, the ARF announced that Saghatelyan has met with the chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party Gagik Tsarukyan and the chairman of the newly-established Homeland party, former head of Armenia’s National Security Service Arthur Vanetsyan to form a working group that will create a roadmap for the country to emerge from the constitutional impasse created by parliament last week, when the ruling My Step party lawmakers passed amendments to the constitution forcing the ouster of two Constitutional Court judges and the termination of the term of its chairman Hrayr Tovmasyan.

Saghatelyan said in the interview that the only way out of the current impasse is through snap parliamentary elections. This response was followed by Ghalechyan pointing out that the party did not pass the threshold needed during the 2018 elections and whether the ARF leader anticipated a different outcome.

“The issue isn’t whether we will succeed or not. There is the imperative for a new caliber of leadership, which can only be formulated by the people through new elections,” said Saghatelyan. “During the past two years, the expectations of the people have changed.” He promised that during the next parliamentary elections, the ARF will have a decisive presence.

He explained that the party’s aim is for the demands that were laid out by the people during the 2018 popular movement come to fruition and explained that the party’s participation in the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in the early days after the movement was to ensure that the those expectations were addressed.

Saghatelyan candidly said that his party’s methods of communicating with the people must change, adding that there have areas for improvement. He added, however, that party might not have received enough votes because “we have not engaged in populism.”

It was pointed out that during the past two years there have been many judicial proceedings against former government officials who were charged with corruption and embezzlement, yet the ARF deems these steps as judicial misconduct.

Saghatelyan explained that the ARF has voiced concerns when the application of the law has been selective. “If the government is using them [the laws] as levers to pressure the opposition, we have a problem with that.” He said that the government has had two years to work on this matter and demanded that it present an accounting of what it has collected from the those suspected of looting the national coffers.

The ARF leader rejected the notion that it is pursuing an agenda that is based on the previous regime and the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia, calling such assertions “unacceptable.” He explained that even when the ARF was part of the ruling coalition, which he characterized as itself being a difficult process, the party never wavered from advancing its approaches to critical issues dealing with the improvement of the people’s quality of life.

On the Artsakh issue, Saghatelyan was clear and pointed out that during the more than 30 years of the movement, the ARF has never wavered from its commitment to the liberation movement, recalling its role in the liberation movement, the war, as well as its readiness during the 2016 April War, during which he said some 400 ARF volunteers showed up at the Artsakh border within hours of the Azerbaijani attack. He said any suggestion otherwise about the party is “a red line that must not be crossed.”

To a question about whether the ARF, given its current opposition status in Armenia, will discontinue its activism abroad on issues pertaining to Armenia and Artsakh, Saghatelyan was decisive in his response, saying that the ARF organization in the Diaspora has never stopped its advocacy and activism to advance issue regarding Artsakh or Armenia. He pointed out that during the Levon Ter-Petrosian presidency, when the ARF was forcibly shut down in Armenia, the party’s relevant bodies in the Diaspora continued to advance the issues of strengthening Armenia and the right to self-determination of Artsakh.