Vazgen Manukyan: Charges Against Kocharyan and Khachaturov Baseless

President of the Public Council of Armenia and leader of the National Democratic Union Party Vazgen Manukyan, issued a statement expressing concern about the charges against former president Robert Kocharyan regarding the events of March 1 as well as charges against General Secretary of the CSTO, Yuri Khachaturov, who was then Chief of the General Staff of Armenia’s Armed Forces.

Vazgen Manukyan served as Armenia’s Prime Minister at the time of its independence in 1991, was Minister of Defense, a presidential candidate in 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2008, Member of the National Assembly in 1995-2007 and since 2009 has served as the President of the Public Council of Armenia.

Armenia’s second president Robert Kocharyan has been detained since July 27 in connection to his involvement in the violent crackdown following the 2008 presidential elections which left 10 people dead. He is being accused of overthrowing the constitutional order.

“Our party and I personally have been in hardline opposition during the decade of Kocharyan’s rule. We have been critical of many questions raised by that administration and have been opposed to many of its decisions.

“However, regarding the recent accusations that have been presented to Robert Kocharyan and Yuri Khachaturov, I strongly disagree and consider them baseless and the decision of detention – dangerous. It is a groundless accusation against people who have played an invaluable role in some of our people’s greatest military victories in the last few centuries.

“Nevertheless, from the political viewpoint, what took place on March 1, 2008?

“Starting from 1996, presidential elections have seen many falsifications. Same occurred during the 2008 election. According to the results of that election, three candidates got the majority of the votes: Serzh Sargsyan got 52.8%, Levon Ter-Petrossian got 21.5% and Arthur Baghdasaryan received 17.7%.

“In this regard, it differed from the 1996 election which was between two candidates, opposition’s (41%) and the incumbent (51.3%). Moreover in 1996 we presented volumes of evidence to the Constitutional Court. However, we never said that the opposition candidate had won, we just wanted ballot boxes opened at random precincts to check for irregularities and then conduct a second round of voting if there was evidence of falsification.

“2003 elections presented a similar problem too when the main candidates were Robert Kocharyan and Stepan Demirchyan. After the results were published the angry crowd encircled the Central Electoral Committee’s headquarters and under public pressure second round of voting was scheduled.

“During the 2008 election, the base of evidence presented by the opposition was very weak and so nothing of substance got presented to the Constitutional Court, even though it was obvious that falsifications had taken place. But because a large percentage of the vote had been divided between 3 candidates, the best decision that opposition could rally behind was to go to round two of voting. Instead, Ter-Petrossian announced that he had won the election by receiving 60 percent of the vote and has to become president, then went on to use all the means to achieve this unconstitutional goal. Since there was wide public discontent with not just the elections but also with governmental policies, they took advantage of this wave of discontent and that led to ongoing protests. The authorities tried to disperse the protest.

“This standard situation which had previously been observed in our country as in many other places, suddenly became non-standard and got out of control. There were fatalities on both sides, among the law enforcement and protesters. In this matter there are either two sides that need to receive appropriate evaluation or there is a third side that’s trying to escalate the situation.

“In any case, it is important to determine who fired first and who gave the orders and I think that some unexpected discoveries will be made. Will it be possible to uncover everything? I can’t say, but those strange events need to be thoroughly investigated. For us the evaluation of Robert Kocharyan or Levon Ter-Petrossian’s actions are not all that matters, but more important is to understand how a routine situation got out of hand and led to deaths, arson and breaking into stores.

“My dear people, I understand the discontent you feel toward all previous administrations who have mistreated our republic and I understand the gratification when some of them are being punished. Nevertheless, everything has to be done according to the law and not in pursuit of political objectives and vendetta.

“While complaining about the past, at times justified, at times not, we have to understand that since the establishment of the Republic of Armenia in 1918, initially under ARF-Dashnaktsutyun’s leadership, then Communist, followed by Pan-Armenian Movement and Republican Party of Armenia, alongside our mistakes we have also had big and small victories due to the efforts of our people the result of which is a powerful state mechanism and we don’t have to demolish it but rather perfect it and move forward.

“It is worrisome that currently Armenia resembles a theater, where counterbalances such as opposition parties, NGOs and press are not functioning. Seems like everyone is afraid and waiting. This path will take us back to the year 1937, war and isolation in the international arena.”