Interviews and press conferences
Interview of President Serzh Sargsyan with the representatives of the Armenian TV Companies
Gevork Altunian, Armenian Public TV: Good evening, Mister President. First, allow to thank you for this meeting. The country is on the eve of a significant event, and I believe there are many questions and it would be appropriate to receive answers to these questions from the leader of the country. To begin with, why now? Why the process of constitutional changes is being initiated right now, at this stage? Are there issues which the President of the Republic will solve by initiating this process, and in your opinion, is there public demand for all this?
Serzh Sargsyan: Let me start by saying that the question “why now?” has a rhetorical overtone. Wouldn’t the same question arise had we done it one year before or one year after? This is number one. Number two: I would like to know what popular demand means and how that popular demand is being measured. So, if someone believes that in 1995 or 2003 and 2005 people took to the streets and were demanding a Constitution, tell me that I am wrong. I believe that popular demand is being expressed by political forces and our major political forces – Prosperous Armenia, Heritage, Armenian Revolutionary Federation have been constantly demanding that. If there was no popular demand, why they were saying there was, if you remember, right after the presidential elections. Meeting, so to speak, the demands of the Heritage leader’s halfway, I suggested that he created a commission, which he would head and which would propose constitutional changes. Why would I make such a proposal if there was no demand? About why now: regardless of when we initiate them, the same question will arise; now, because the world is changing rapidly, because the geopolitical situation today is different from what it used to be, because internal mood in Armenia is different from what it was, and I see certain risks in certain clauses of the current Constitution, and I believe it’s my duty to voice my concern about these risks. I cannot just remain silent and say “I see these risks but since people believe the time is not right or there is no popular demand, and I will not say anything.” It is only a proposal, and on December 6 we will see if our nation needs that changes, we will take another route. Our priority is to conduct a normal referendum, within legal boundaries, and not just make changes. Changes are not the matter of life and death, and in general, for me no voting is a matter of life and death. You might remember that during two presidential elections I said that it was not a life and death struggle; there will be another day after the elections. The same here. But I have to say, I have to as President, as a human being who has spent a good half of his life working in the structures which provide security; I simply must. Let anyone say that he has this much experience of working in security structures, in internal affairs bodies, in security council, in the highest bodies of state governance. I have to. This is the answer. If you wish, we can immediately take upon the risks which are present in the constitutional wording, as well as speak about obstacles. Look, I will just quote from the Constitution, but before that I would like to say that in our Constitution, in the acting Constitution, there is a disproportion between rights and responsibilities. Bringing just three examples, I will try to reveal risks and obstacles. In the Second Chapter of the Constitution, which stipulates the status of the President of the Republic, authority and procedures, we read the following: Article 49: “The President of the Republic of Armenia shall be the head of the state. The President of the Republic shall strive to uphold the Constitution and to ensure the regular functioning of the legislative, executive and judicial powers.” And in the following paragraph, “The President of the Republic shall be the guarantor of the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Armenia.”
Now let’s have a look at the Article which stipulates the power of President. It is in Article 55, and paragraph 12 of Article 55 reads, “[President] shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, coordinate the operations of the government bodies in the area of defense, appoint to and dismiss from office the Highest Command of the armed and paramilitary forces.
Pay attention to the wording – shall coordinate, not command but coordinate. Tell me please, how can President provide for security by coordinating? I would like to bring a specific example and demonstrate the risks which can appear, and today our situation is such that probability of such threats to our security is very high. Just imagine that at the 2012 parlimentary elections one of our political forces won but whose program theses, in my deep conviction, contradict our national interests. I am not saying they are good or bad, I am saying - in my conviction. And what that political force is supposed to do after winning the elections? They must appoint their leader, or a person they trust, Prime Minister. Our Constitution stipulates that the President of the Republic appoints Prime Minister a person who enjoys trust of the majority in the Parliament. I had to appoint, I couldn’t not to. Let’s say, we appointed that individual and a government was formed. I am not talking about the quality of that government, because they constitute a political force, and if I, let’s say, disagree with the candidure of the Minister of Defense, there will be a political crisis. But let’s say, I agreed; what’s that government is supposed to do? That government must implement its program theses. It’s clear, right? And now suppose that very political force is Heritage party. Why I say Heritage? Because they say that the independence of Nagorno Karabakh must be recognized without delay. The government will adopt a decision, the draft of the law will be sent to the National Assembly and the National Assembly will recognize independence of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and according to our Cosntitution that law will be sent to the Presidential Palace. I have to ratify it within 21 days or send it back to the National Assembly with my objections. But because they constitute the majority, and the elections have taken place just days ago, and they won, they will override the veto and will resend it to the Presidential Palace. And I have to ratify it within 5 days. But what does it mean: to recognize independence of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh? It means to declare war on Azerbaijan because if you officially recognize independence of NKR, there is no need for negogiations, while negotiations are the alternative to war. Second, it means disrespect towards the Russian Federation, France and the United States because they are Co-Chairs, and for over 23 years have been mediating and conducting negotiations. Quite naturally, they will be grossly displeased with such an attitude.
The next clause: if you remember, in May the representatives of Heritage brough a draft of a law to the National Assembly, according to which we had to demand from Turkey to return the territory of Western Armenia. What does it mean? It means to declare war on Turkey. The same situation, and I cannot do a thing; or I should take on the proposal voiced during one of the teleinterviews by Mister Aram Abrahamian, i.e. put pressure on the government or Prime Minister through the law enforcement bodies, but it would unacceptable.
Next thing: you might remember another thesis of that party – the taxes must go down, salaries and pensions must go up. And where are we supposed to get the money? We have money only in the budget which is filled up only and only by taxes, and a huge part of that budget is being allocated for our security, mostly – defense. So the bottomline is: let’s reduce capabilities of our defense, reduces funds, declare war on Azerbaijan and Turkey, and who is responsible for all this? So, Raffi Hovannisian declares war on Azerbaijan, and Serzh Sargsyan is supposed to provide for security? You believe it is logical? It is not, can’t you see? Commander-in-Chief is not supposed to remain sitted in his office or go to the Ministry of Defense, open maps and say “the first army regiment will strike from the right, the second will strike from the left”, etc. We have military for that task, we have specialists, there is General Headquarters, and it is within the scope of their responsibilities. The task of the President of the Republic, i.e. of the Commander-in-Chief is to mobilize all resources of the country to solve a military and political issue, which means to thwart any threat to the security of the country. If Commander-in-Chief is only coordinating, how is he supposed to organize all that? Yes, if the government, i.e. majority in the parliament and President represent the same political party, there are no problems such as this, because along with the Constitution, there are also party rules, there are party leverages which allow to solve issues like that. Besides, if you represent the same political force, you have the same program theses, same objectives, etc. While in case of different political forces, how this problem is supposed to be solved? By confrontation? It mean on one hand, we have a potentially war situation, on the other hand confrontation within the country. And what do you make of it? It’s a real threat to our security. I want that threat to disappear, I want responsibilities to be there, where the rights are. This is one.
Second, in the provisions there are also hindrances with regard to the economic development. Look, Article 55 doesn’t contain any authority related to our economy which means that ex officio the President of the Republic of Armenia is not responsible for the economic situation. But because today, the President of the country represents the same political force as the government, the entire responsibility falls on him. Let’s bring examples. Why the workers of Nairit come to Baghramian street and demand their wages? In response to the question “why are you here?” they say “we elected you and we know that the President of the Republic is responsible for everything. The same happened with the electricity tariffs. Where did these people go? Where were they protesting? And this circumstance, which somewhat reflects the reality, is, I don’t know if I am using the right word here, waters down responsibilities of the economic bodies or those engaged in economic activities. The public has a notion that all decisions, including economic ones, are being made at Baghramian 26, true? If a person doesn’t feel responsible for the decision he made and attributes that decision to someone else, he can never ever be consistent in his actions.
And number three: I believe that no one here will deny that our public also has a notion that all court verdicts are made at Baghramian 26, before the court pronounces its judgment. Why does such a notion exist?
For a very simple reason: because all judges are appointed by the President of Armenia. And when some of them, I am not saying all judges, but some of them carry out sharp practices, they do it with pointing to the picture of the President. And people believe it, because in Armenia it is incomprehensible that you appoint someone and that someone can disobey you. Here, we are dealing with the internal and external independence of the judiciary; in the proposed option, according to the majority of experts, this problem finds its solution. I can bring at least 15 such points, however I believe that these three are enough to make you understand the rationale behind it.
Nver Mnatsakanian, Armenian Public TV: My question too stems from the security concerns mentioned by you. My question is probably about the most important issue there is: security. It is known that the changes to the Constitution stipulate that in peace time, there is no Commander-in-Chief, and the corresponding functions are carried out by a collegiate body, in this case - by the government. By the way, this clause has been the most discussed and the most criticized one during the campaign, and it raised my concern too. Could the absence of Commander-in-Chief in peace time bring about certain risks and threats?
Serzh Sargsyan: Nver, I would like to mention that in your question you’ve mentioned that there is a Commander-in-Chief, simply that Commander-in-Chief is a collegiate body, a collective body. Of course, agitators of “No”, depending on the audience, try to present certain ideas which may be pleasing for simple people. Certainly, if you go to a border region and declare that in peace time there will be no Commander-in-Chief, people, probably, start to hesitate.
However I state with full responsibility that in the parliamentary system, i.e. in the proposed system, the absence of Commander-in-Chief is a result of long deliberations and conscientious approach. Look, if the reforms pass, the entire executive power will rest with the government, all of it and in that case, to vest Prime Minister with the functions of Commander-in-Chief in peace time could be risky. Why? Because when we say Commander-in-Chief we imply the unconditional use by Commander-in-Chief of the army under his command. And where in peace time the army to be used? I wouldn’t go into much detail, but having so much authority and additional authority of deploying army in peace time could be very a dangerous clause. For instance, what my predecessors or I, as Commanders-in-Chief, do in practice? Every morning the Minister of Defense reports on the situation and naturally receives corresponding instructions. There are days when he reports four times, he has to do it. Besides, every week the Minister of Defense arrives at certain time and presents a comprehensive report on the combat readiness of the troops, safety, and many-many other issues, personnel policy, etc. and receives solutions for these issues. There is the Military Administration functioning under the President which conducts regular scheduled or nonscheduled inspections in the army units to check on the combat readiness of the troops. Can that Administration function under the Government? Of course, it can. Besides, as Commander-in-Chief, I regularly, on different occasions, several times a year visit our regiments, our army, speak to the commanders, soldiers and feel, feel myself the psychological and moral atmosphere there. Which of these functions cannot be performed by the Prime Minister in peace time? Minister of Defense is a member of the government: Is it possible, for instance, that one day he says, “I will not be reporting every morning?” The next moment, he will be out of the government. Once again, Commander-in-Chief exists to ensure combat readiness of the troops in peace time, and in war time he must mobilize all resources to solve the military and political issues at hand. If all the resources are concentrated in the hands of the government, who can perform that task better: the person who by the Constitution must coordinate the work of the state institutions, or the person who directs the works of the state institutions. I believe we make the change for that very reason: to keep rights and responsibilities in one place.
I am quite sincere: should our country had a pure presidential system of governance I would probably not initiate these changes, possibly because the parliamentary system has its advantages, but the presidential system too has its advantages. For instance, in a war situation, the presidential system is quite normal, contains no danger whatsoever, however, I wouldn’t say that in war time, the parliamentary system is not viable. It is this semi-presidential system which is not viable. Israel has a parliamentary system, which means that in Israel it is the Parliament which governs. Doesn’t Israel face threats? Another example, much closer to us. What do you think was the governing system in Karabakh during the war? Certainly, it was a parliamentary system. Once again, in war time, Prime Minister becomes Commander-in-Chief, and supported by the Parliament can be very gutsy in his decisions, more confident. The parliamentary system of governance presumes that Prime Minister a priori has the support of the parliament majority, while the President doesn’t a priory has the majority in the parliament. Another question?
Nver Mnatsakanian: Among the arguments of the “No” movement is one that in this case there would be a little too much authority concentrated in the hands of Prime Minister.
Serzh Sargsyan: What does it mean, a little too much? In general, in my opinion, a little and much is very relative. If the responsibilities are too many, why there should be little authority? I would like to speak about a wide-spread notion that this is a very opportune time. It’s quite natural that recently, I watch all news on almost any TV channel, and no matter how fruitless it may be sometimes, I watch them nevertheless, and I see that way too many are talking about it and say “who will believe that these changes are made to give more powers to the opposition?” We are introducing changes not aiming at giving more power to the opposition, but have to do it to bring in balance, because on one hand there is a strong executive body, thus on the other hand we need an opposition with the necessary power to check and balance the executive. This is the bottom line: there is no other way to create the mechanism of checks and balances, this is the mechanism. If anyone knows of other mechanism, please tell us, we will use it, but this is the mechanism. And when they go like “Since when are they concerned with the opposition?” I state quite sincerely: in my opinion, the authorities should not concern themselves with the opposition, however the authorities must ensure that the opposition is functioning normally and serves as a balancing factor.
Arkady Grigorian, A-TV Company: Mr. President, if I may, on the same topic. During the campaign, the advocates of “Yes” among the advantages of the draft proposal note that the opposition will receive rights. My question is: is it the authorities’ problem to endow the opposition with additional rights? Doesn’t it look a little suspicious?
Serzh Sargsyan: For that very reason I say that we simply compelled to do it. If we don’t, we will end up with stagnation, if we don’t, we will have again authorities concentrated around one person. We have to do it. Have to, because the parliamentary system presumes increased accountability, presumes higher degree of transparency. If the parliamentary opposition is not allowed to create, let’s say, investigative commissions, what kind of arguments can they bring so that the authorities correct their mistakes, or explain to the public why they did this or that? According to the new Constitution, Prime Minister will be required together with his government at least twice in a month to appear before the National Assembly and publicly respond to the questions; if the opposition is not allowed to put on the agenda a privileged question, etc. the majority will simply strangle the opposition, and if the questions come from the majority, there is no need to be in the Parliament, because the same question the ruling party can ask in other places, and it will not be widely publicized. Meanwhile, the questions posed by the opposition receive wide publicity. Besides, may be this is not a direct response to your question but I would like to say the following: today, the President of the Republic does not bear direct political responsibility, there is no mechanism to impose direct political responsibility. After winning the elections, President is not required to appear before the National Assembly, is not required to talk to journalists, is not required to give public explanations, etc., etc. His political responsibility is mostly of moral nature. Political responsibility reappears at the next elections. Many things may change in the country in five years, but the government and Prime Minister will carry direct political responsibility. Picture this: the government or Prime Minister appear before the parliament, and the opposition directs questions to the government or Prime Minister and they are not able to answer them properly. What happens next? Isn’t it obvious that there will be difficulties not only for the opposition but also for the authorities? And one day, when 10, 15, or 20 members of the parliament will come to the Prime Minister, or will come to the government and they will say, “You know what, this is not going to work this way, you’d rather go, we need someone who commands the situation.” Today, with the presidential system, it is not possible, because if I totally lose scruples, I may receive no one, not even parliamentarians from my own party, and what are they supposed to do? Yes, they can criticize me publicly and so on but it will not lead to my impeachment. In this Constitution, the only threat of impeachment comes from the streets, through the illegal demands for resignation. But which one is acceptable for us, that way or this way? Prime Minister may not say “I am not seeing you,” because when it comes to the next draft to be adopted at the parliament, even the member from the ruling party can abstain from voting. One, two, three drafts… you see, the new Constitution stipulates interpellation, and then voting.
Arkadi Grigorian: Mr. President, in that case the logic goes in the opposite direction: people just do nothing, sleep then wake up, so to speak, and come into possession of much extended authority, rights; then why this opposition, “No” is still very much there? May be they haven’t read all this?
Serzh Sargsyan: It is obvious that these people can be divided into a number of groups. The first group comprises individuals who are not sure that they are able to form a political force and receive many votes with that political force, to have the majority in the parliament and form a government. Besides, these individuals believe, and in many cases it is true, that as individuals they are charismatic persons, and they see the opportunities for personal success in presidential elections. It’s a group of individuals who are categorically against and expressed their position even before the reforms or constitutional changes were publicized. They don’t care what’s written in there, they don’t want a parliamentary system.
There is the second group of people who are opposed to anything proposed by the authorities, good or bad. They believe that if it is proposed by the authorities, there must be something behind it.
The people of the third group are dissatisfied with the situation in general and express their dissatisfaction through “No”. I can go on, and I believe that my approaches are overall clear.
Mihran Hakopian, Ararat TV: Mr. President, the parliamentary system presumes that there should be strong, established, mature parties as well as a political environment. Do you believe our society and state are ready for it?
Serzh Sargsyan: Mihran, I will answer your question with a question: and who is to decide if we are ready or not? Or who has decided that we are ready or not? You’re young and probably wouldn’t remember the beginning of 90-s when we were striving for independence. Do you think that all citizens of Armenia, unconditionally, without any hesitation were for independence? Of course, not. Many people were hesitant. Many doubted if we could survive in this region as an independent state, and were pointing to multiple threats and risks. Besides, established party or mature democracy is not defined by laws only; there is also the issue of traditions. I mean the later we start, the later traditions will form. I will bring you an example from real life: probably five years ago, everyone was thinking if we allow meetings in any place at any time, we would end up with a civil war. And I am grateful to my partners who supported that idea. We adopted such a law, and what happened? People were expressing their concerns. And I understand those who have concerns, who claim that we don’t have established parties. But it’s not true. Today our country is different from what it was. If we provide the opportunity, the parties will mature. Some of them already have. No one can measure and say, now we are mature - to switch or not to switch to the parliamentary system? Of course there are political figures who need to read more, to study the procedures, who need to work more diligently. No doubt this system will “sift out” that kind of party figures. As I said in the last one or two months, thanks to U-com, I watch almost every political program. There was an interesting dispute on Kentron TV: a Republican on one side, and a representative of another party on the other. And when it came to why they say “no”, the argument was the following: we propose that the President of Armenia be also the Chairman of the Security Council, etc., and because our proposal and other proposals were not accepted, we will say “no”. And he brings an example: in many European countries with the parliamentary system, the President of the country is also the Chairman of the Security Council – for instance, in Holland, the Netherlands. Just imagine – a political figure, who appears at the esteemed podium of an esteemed TV company, tells the people that there is president in Holland. Thanks God, that in the royal palace they don’t know about it, they don’t watch our TV. We need also traditions, and traditions will be formed.
Mihran Hakopian: In that case, what about one-man-show parties, which are active only during elections. What do you think will happen to them?
Serzh Sargsyan: I am confident that if these changes pass, in Armenia there will undoubtedly take place consolidation of parties. No doubt about that. Why people join parties, moreover, why someone would create a party and become its leader? With the objective to participated in the political processes. The objective is to receive many votes and to rule the country or to participating in the process of governing the country. Otherwise what’s the purpose of creating a party? Instead a public structure can be created of let’s say nature lovers, or animal lovers, etc. But if they fail one, two or three times, they will be compelled to form a coalition with other parties. Some of these one-man-show parties also participate in presidential elections, don’t they? And for the next five years, in any document they submit, they add “a former presidential candidate”, as if it’s a position or something. This process will lead to the consolidation of parties and strengthening of their role.
Carmen Davtian, H3 TV: Mr. President, new changes will factually form a qualitative majority. The proportionality of that qualitative majority will be decided by the electoral code. Nevertheless, in your personal opinion, what should be the percentage of that qualitative majority, its proportion? And second, if that qualitative majority is the Republican Party, is it going to be a truly qualitative majority? Why? Because it is no secret that the quality of the parliament is sinking, and you, as the RP leader, as the President of Armenia, can you give guarantees, and how can we be sure that if the RPA is the qualitative majority, we will have a qualitative parliament?
Serzh Sargsyan: Carmen, you probably mean a stable majority. The proper word here is stable, because “qualitative” means something else. First, I believe the greatest part of speculations is related to that particular article of the Constitution. But I must state honestly, so far there is no clear-cut approach towards the Electoral Code. I would like to say this once again: Mr. Abrahamian’s and your interlocutors speak of it as if the law has already been written, stashed away somewhere, they know it exists, and know that it allegedly has been circulated under the “only for official use” notation. Please, enough of these tales. I am surprised that part of our people believes in these tales. Mature people who believe in tales. There is no such thing. In this country, it is impossible to keep something like this secret. It would have appeared on internet sites long ago. The Constitution just provides such an opportunity, it says - it is possible. Possible but not required, but that word will undoubtedly compel the parties to appear at the elections as a coalition. Even if they are not successful as a coalition, the existence of the second round will force the minority as well as those with many votes to be more constructive. I am amazed that someone, who has never participated in our electoral processes, declares that those with many votes will adopt a tough stance and won’t agree to anything. Probably that person doesn’t understand that elections are a difficult task, especially for, as you say, for the Republican Party. Seventy-five percent of the heads of the local government bodies are Republicans. It’s a huge structure. What is more logical: to use that structure twice, or to be more constructive? With the parliamentary system, especially in our country, steady governance is a priority, and that governance must be vertical, and the only way to get there is to have a stable majority. But it does not necessarily imply the second round of elections. It is just an option. As one of the member of the commission put it figuratively, it’s a reserve alternative. And why the stable majority cannot be initially formed with one party? It is possible, isn’t it? There are arguments such as this: never ever in the history of our country a single party has been able win more than 50 percent through the proportionate system, etc. etc. But the situation was different then, it was when majoritarian candidates in order to get more votes, were coming into an agreement with different parties. I don’t rule out that probably not in 2017 but during the next parliamentary elections one party will be able to win single-handedly, why not? This is number one.
Second: why are you ruling out the possibility of forming coalitions before the elections? Why cannot people come together and form an election bloc? I am sure, if a number of parties unite, they can easily win the majority. And besides, what is more understandable, more acceptable for our people - a coalition or bloc created behind the doors for forming a government, or when the people express their attitude towards such a bloc? Let’s say after the first round one of the parties received 30 percent, the other, well, I don’t know, let’s say 35 percent, the next - 10 or 15 percent. Why don’t they unite and go to elections together so that the people can give them their confidence, which means greater legitimacy for that government? Isn’t it a more proper way rather than going behind the doors and then announcing, “We’ve formed a government, here it is”? And why people shy away from stable majority? How are we supposed to act to achieve stability in the country? What are we supposed to do to have a government composed of such forces? Even many from the opposition say that it is unacceptable for small parties to unite and make a bloc, to form a government. Of course it is unacceptable because such a government will survive for one, one and half, two months. Do we need to change government every three months? Another thing: I don’t share your opinion that the quality of our parliament is sinking and in general, no offence, but all people believe that those who came before them and those who came after them made many more mistakes than they did. I can confidently state this: today, there are members of our Parliament, I am not saying all of them, that would bring honor to any European parliament. It wouldn’t be right for me to name names but, of course, there are also members who represent a certain social stratum. May be they are not highly educated or have no skills necessary to work with laws, maybe their conduct doesn’t correspond to the requirements presented to our deputies, but they still represent part of our nation, right? It would also be wrong to say that the literacy level of our entire population is the same. There is no country in the world where all members are academicians. There is the Academy of Sciences for such individuals. I would like to repeat, please don’t get it wrong, I am not saying that our parliament is perfect; what I am saying is, parliament is the mirror image of the society, and it must be that way, whether you like it or not. And second, here, in our parliament there are members who are not worse than the members of previous parliaments. Once again, it doesn’t mean that I underestimate deputies of the Supreme Council or members of the consecutive parliaments.
Alik Hakopian, AR TV: Mr. President, those who speak against the Constitution among others bring the following argument: the laws of our country are good, but they do not work. First, ensure the implementation of the laws, and only after that consider any changes to the Constitution. What do you think of this observation and will the new Constitution finally reinforce the rule of law in our country?
Serzh Sargsyan: Certainly. One of those on TV said that Constitution exists to make people’s life easier. Constitution is not for that. Constitution is called upon to regulate our life, and with this regard the development of constitutional culture will undoubtedly have its significant influence. You know, when people say that laws do not work, I in part agree, but in part disagree. There are laws which work 100 percent, and there laws which probably need more time to become workable, when our “legal conscientiousness” is on a higher level. On the other hand, that level is revealed in comparison. Alik, do you think 15 or 20 years ago, laws in our country were more effectively implemented? I strongly doubt that. What about laws in the Soviet Union? Where they all enacted for all people equally? Can you name just one country where laws work 100 percent, a country with no corruption, with no bad policemen, or venal prosecutors, etc? Is there such a country? I mean to say that comparison should be made within the framework of time and space. If we compare ourselves with a European country, of course the level of law-abidance in our country is lower than there. But if we compare with what we had 10-15 years ago, I believe here we have made progress.
The same goes for the standard of living. Some individuals claim on TV or in the newspapers that we constantly fail. They don’t bother to compare numbers which will prove whether we fail or not. It is my deep conviction that everything should be assessed in comparison. If we adopt different standards, we will deviate from the right course. I understand very well that the representatives of the authorities are trying to say, look, we have done this and that, it is relatively not bad, while the members of the opposition will say it’s bad, bad, bad. Who are the judges? Our people and also international structures. International human rights organizations, I mean, the Venice Commission, European Ombudsman, Council of Europe, these structures, their leaders come to Armenia and say that constitutional changes are in total agreement with the democratic standards, and there is not regress on the issue of protection of human rights; suddenly there appears a person, who has problems expressing himself in Armenian, a person, who didn’t bother to read the changes, says no, human rights here are restricted, and so on. But people need to understand who is talking, right? I can bring multiple examples, ranging from the Doing Business index compiled annually by the World Bank experts to the reports of CRECO group. My greatest wish is that laws in Armenia work 100 percent, that there is no corruption in Armenia whatsoever, that road police take no bribes, but it looks like it’s a good bargain for the one who gives a bribe as much as for the one who takes it. Because of it, it is very difficult for the authorities to create an ideal situation. Why are people opposed to the violations being registered by cameras rather than human beings? Because they cannot put pressure on cameras, while they can do it with the policemen, all the time. I am not telling this to answer certain individuals but to make a point that for the law to be fully workable, we also need to employ technical means, right? We also have to solve certain social problems. Probably what I am going to say is not a very popular notion, but can a policeman, who’s making 400 US dollars, or approximately two hundred thousand drams, be as strict about the law as the policeman who makes 4000 US dollars? Of course, not. As simple as that. I am not going to justify anybody, and I don’t justify the existing situation; I simply underscore that our wishes are huge, but to bring them to life, we have work tirelessly. We all have to strive to make our input otherwise it’s not going to work. Certainly what I said doesn’t mean that there are no dishonest officials, who put their own profit before that of the state, however we cannot claim that it’s a wide-spread phenomenon.
Arthur Kirakossian, Erkir Media TV: Mr. President, in the past, you were not a staunch supporter of the constitutional changes, more so of the parliamentary system of governance. When the concept was made public, you recalled your former statements in favor of the existing Constitution and also expressed concern that if it changes, if there is a parliamentary system, we would not be able to provide for the internal and external security of the country and stability of the system. Today, based on what we hear, would it be right to assume that all concerns are put to rest, and you have become a supporter of the parliamentary system? If yes, after the referendum, when we have a parliamentary system, what will former President Serzh Sargsyan do?
Serzh Sargsyan: First, I should say that I don’t share your hasty conclusions. You can call me former President only in three years.
Arthur Kirakossian: All right, in three years then.
Serzh Sargsyan: It’s something different. I think we can revisit this issue in 2017, after the parliamentary elections. It’s too early to speak about it now, and I don’t believe that this important subject is to be correlated with my political future. This is one. Second, responding to the question raised by one of your colleagues, I said that should our country had a pure presidential system of governance, I would probably not, and the chances are I wouldn’t initiated this kind of changes, because, I want to repeat, risks I spoke about, other risks exist in the presidential system as well, but not the one I mentioned. Unfortunately, I have to repeat, our country is not a country with the presidential system of governance, it is semi-presidential, in which in certain circumstances the executive functions are divided between the government and president, in which the government is formed partly by the parliament and partly by president. May be in practical, everyday life it is nice to share, but when it comes to security, to divide rights or responsibilities is very dangerous. Be assured that should I not be 100 confident in the functionality of the proposed system, I wouldn’t have initiated these changes, because eventually the responsibility is huge, is it not? Why would I, without having compelling reasons go for such changes? As much as I respect Dashanktsutyun, which for the last 25 years has been saying that we need a parliamentary system in this country, as much as I pay heed to the positions of Prosperous Armenia or Heritage regarding the necessity of switching to the parliamentary system, I wouldn’t initiate such changes. But to be aware of danger and do nothing, in my case, I believe would be a crime. Let’s hope that on December 6, we will have normal voting, that changes are accepted and everything becomes normal. God forbid if the acting Constitution remains unchanged and then in more difficult circumstances there are disturbances in our country, or instability; at that time I can at least say, I told you so, because I so danger. Of course, then all those who today say “no” will hide in the bushes. But is it preferable to have bad things happen and then say “we told you so”, or to bring forward what we saw, what we went through, what we achieved along the way and say, this is the right course. If you remember, in 1995 our first Constitution was also criticized. The changes in 2003 didn’t pass. Criticism was voiced in 2005 as well. It is easy to criticize a document which was heavily invested in, which is tangible, which pertains to every aspect of our life.
Let one of them, the one who considers himself an expert on Constitution, write a constitution; I am being not of a legal profession will make at least 200 comments only during the first reading. It is easy to speak on readymade material. Who says that the amendments we have presented will bring the Constitution into a perfect shape? It’s impossible, impossible because as I said Constitution regulates our daily life: moods in the society are changing, maturity, and other things. A document which regulates every aspect of your life must be in line with the reality, otherwise impediments will appear. Tales are being told: this country’s constitution hasn’t changed for hundred years; another country has no constitution at all. It is similar to taking a piece of a gorgeous painting and stating “this is it”, but that particular piece is in harmony with the entire painting. Anyone who brings the example of certain countries is not familiar with their entire legislation. As I said, once one of our political figures ventured to declare that a German expert is not well-versed in the German laws or Constitution. On this, a great German once said very wisely, “Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.” In this case, who is the person, who has studied the entire constitutional field of England, I am not saying constitution, and knows what regulates what? I asked in a private conversation one of such individuals, with others present, what can you tell about elections in Great Britain in general, is the system there majoritarian or proportionate, and he was arguing quite passionately that the system there is proportionate.
We certainly have to deal with such persons as well, however it does not mean that our political field is overwhelmed with them. One should be able to see changes through the time. Those who cannot, have a problem, but when they make their problem a problem for the people, it is unacceptable. Current proposals suggest a much more stable system from the viewpoint of security than the existing one. It is clear, no doubt about that.
Petros Ghazarian, Kentron TV: Mr. President, opposition’s criticism is carried out on different fronts, there are two provisions which are present in any piece of criticism. You’ve covered the one related to a paragraph in Article 89, related to the Republican Party. The other one, well as you know our politics are personified, ties directly to you. They say, look, you said you don’t want to be Prime Minister because the same person cannot be efficient for more than two terms but as the leader of the ruling party and controlling the majority in the National Assembly you can easily also control the government. Meaning not being a state official, with no share of responsibility you will rule the country from your party office. In addition, this can be applied to any ruling party leader. Those who win can without any responsibility rule the country from the wings. They say that the new Constitution bears such a threat.
Serzh Sargsyan: No way. There can be no ruling from the wings. Part of my problems stems from the fact that I will not accept shadow administration. I will not open the brackets but with this regard there emerges a very interesting idea. You noted President, Prime Minister; it was also stated that there will be no Speaker of the National Assembly from the party. Let’s say tomorrow I announce that I am not going to be the party leader, Petros, demonstrators will say that if Serzh Sargsyan is the Chairman of the Chess Federation, he will rule the country. Well, enough is enough. Why don’t they just go and take part in the elections, put some effort into it, not just sit in Yerevan and, pardon my words, take different poses and during the demonstrations or on TV and waffle. Instead let them go and form grass-root organizations. Let them go and participate in the elections of local government bodies. They don’t participate, they don’t work but aspire to get a majority at the state elections. It doesn’t work that way, just doesn’t. Since the opportunity presented itself, I would like to say that during the previous presidential elections, in 2013 there were 30,000 subjects with electoral rights. It means that 30,000 individuals were endowed with the right to monitor elections, with powers to oversight. 14,500 out of 30,000 were from opposition, representing different parties. They were members of the commissions, authorized representatives, observers, etc, which means that 30,000 individuals could have filed a complaint. If you look back and recall, there was only one complaint. They said that the elections were rigged, they say this and that. If the elections were rigged, why there were no complaints, why the violations they saw were not registered? I can also add this: a demerit of the presidential system is that the winner takes it all, the loser gets nothing, even if the difference between the winner and the loser is just one or two percent. One gets 51 percent, and he becomes President with overwhelming power, the other with 49 percent gets nothing. Such a person makes it his life purpose for five years to constantly discredit the elections, discredit the winner. It comes to, well they don’t go to Tizbon, because there is no Tizbon, they go to other capitals and gossip about the leadership of their own country. Is it different from treason? The system compels us to force people, because he has no other chance, not in one year, not in six months, not in eighteen months to acquire power and implement his programs. Meanwhile, the parliamentary system provides for such an opportunity: if a party receives a steady majority, as Carmen noted, and steady majority is the majority, Carmen, which allows to adopt clear laws. The majority can be 52, 54, 55… We need still to talk to the Venice Commission. Let’s say we won 51, the other party 49, can you imagine that a political force can have 49 percent in the parliament? Not even 49, but 40. Isn’t it true that it can be very instrumental through its criticism, through its active stance? In the end of day, as I said, what we call majority, which you mention so many times, that steady majority is not something engraved in stone, right? That steady majority is movable too. It is possible that one day three or four individuals move somewhere else, and then there is no steady majority any more, finish. Someone else becomes steady majority. It is possible that in six months, one year, two years there will be change of power, which will compel people to work with that 49 percent of votes, to work with them to put them in party structures, even if the vote was received while in opposition to the authorities. These are votes of the protesting electorate. They must be arranged, must be structured, but they waste it, because in the next five years they don’t need that electorate, it’s a burden, isn’t it? It’s a burden to get concerned with 100, 200, 300 thousand people. You have to work from 9am to 11-12pm to somehow satisfy these people. Even by just listening to these people you can solve certain problems, but you don’t need them anymore. But if it is a party system, I repeat, by settling these votes in party structures, of course, not all of them, but at least you will have a structure. How does it look when a political party, which considers itself a very strong one, views the constitutional changes as an earth-shattering event, cannot even provide members for the half of the commission. A person, who cannot provide representatives for all precinct commissions of the Republic, does he have the right to be so arrogant? Call Tigran Mukuchian tomorrow and ask him which parties and how are represented in the commissions? Do you remember how they were fighting in the parliament to be represented in these commissions? I have a feeling that those fights in the parliament were staged for the people to see that they fight and not for utilizing that right later. Party building is a very difficult job.
Petros Ghazarian: May be there is also an objective factor present, because look the same parties which have to create structures, attract members and so on, need financial resources, right? But in our country, business, at least openly, does not financially support opposition, business is always with the authorities, money is with the authorities. Opposition has no money.
Serzh Sargsyan: But, Petros, where the authorities get money from? It looks like you too count others’ money, without seeing it.
Petros Ghazarian: Mr. President, the authorities are not “others”. But the opposition has no money; there is no financing for the opposition. How are they supposed to create these structures to compete with the authorities?
Serzh Sargsyan: What about the authorities, how were they created? Do you think someone just brought it, as a gift, or a businessman made a donation? It is necessary to work, to labor, first to create structures, then bring together capabilities of these structures, grow little by little, and not just create a small structure and immediately present a bid like “Tomorrow, I will become President, because I will participate in presidential elections.” Take elections of 2013, 2008, even before that, what percentage of the participants had a chance to win in presidential elections?
Petros Ghazarian: You mean parliamentary elections?
Serzh Sargsyan: What’s the difference? Do ambitions of these people reveal themselves only during presidential elections? Their ambitions reveal themselves during parliamentary elections as well. Our population is only three million people. Just compare a number of political parties in Armenia with the number of parties in any given country. You will see that in that area we are the leaders of the world. You see, when a person realizes that he is not able to create a party with ten thousand members, because to do it you need more than just money, a person contents himself with a party of 50, 40, 30 members and then goes home and declares that he’s a party leader. Petros, it would be the same if you and me, let’s say in Yerevan or Vardenis, if you will, or in Gavar rent a room and announce that that room is the world academy of sciences. You, Petros, are an academician; I am aspiring to become one. We meet in the morning and greet each other with “How are you today, Academician.” You see, there are people who live in a virtual world. I don’t mean it in a bad sense. Many states developed this way. We need to take these problems calmly, make no fuss. It’s not the end of the world. No need to go like, oh my God, this person participated in the election and got only 0.2 percent. So what? The person wanted to participate in the elections and he did, what’s so tragic about it? Maybe, the person himself will take it as a sort of tragedy, but we have to create institutions and provide opportunities so that a person will not have to make excuses. Only singular persons become candidates for presidential elections, right? Singular individuals who have not yet become enemies of the current authorities and consequently of the state, because no matter what if you take a hostile attitude towards the authorities, you willy-nilly harm the country. Vasakn Syuni never said “I want to hurt Armenia,” who can say such a thing? When one commits a crime, murders someone, in the majority of cases criminals go like “I am not guilty, he made me.” The majority of candidates are just like that, right? I want to repeat: they waste their 10, event 25 percent, make it disappear into thin air in only a couple of months. But in case of parliamentary system, these 10 or 15 percent, and this is not about positions, but about participation, would allow a given party to work and, why not, there can appear a new leader, a new party leader.
Shavarsh Gevorkian, H2 TV: Since throwing accusations is the easiest thing there is, accusations related to this topic are plentiful. I would like to mention one of them, which was voiced by a member of the National Assembly: the Constitutions is being changed so that deliberated territories are given to Azerbaijan not through a single signature but through the vote, which means that responsibility will be shared by many. If I am not mistaken, it was Hrant Bagratian who raised the issue. Mr. President, are there at least hypothetical grounds to this accusation?
Serzh Sargsyan: You see, in the course of my state activities, I have heard a thousand of accusations; some of them probably had some grounds, the others didn’t. That’s way, Shavarsh, I am not surprised. I just want to ask a simple question: how does our Constitution cover the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh? Those liberated territories are part of NKR, right? So, our Constitution covers them too? Can a solid person, I really don’t know who said that, think that way? But again from our experience, let me tell you why that specific clause of the Constitution was invoked. All of you must remember what were the authorities accused of in 2000, related to the negotiations on the Nagorno Karabakh issue, remember even the events of October 27 were said to be linked to the swap of Meghri and Karabakh?
Shavarsh Gevorkian: Ashot Manucharian still links every year.
Serzh Sargsyan: That’s his business. Each of us should mind our own business. It was enshrined in the Constitution, so that insinuations such as this one don’t go around, so that no one were to claim that the authorities, these guys from Karabakh want to give away our Meghri and to bring their Karabakh into Armenia. It’s preposterous, isn’t it? Any leader of Armenia, no matter who he is, how he can even think of giving away or swapping over part of Armenia? It’s not like demarcation, when you’re given, I don’t know, 100 meters on this side or 100 meters on the other side, right? How can you take and give these settlements to someone else, even with the anticipation of some trade-off? After all, it’s illogical, irrational. However ideas like this are being voiced by the people who are capable of doing it once in power, no doubt about that.
Aram Abrahamian, Shant TV: In a way to carry on the question asked by Petros and Arthur. I would like to quote from your statement made on July 18 at the sitting of the Executive Board of your party. I will make a quote and then ask my question, “Since I have read today’s press and noticed that the issue of my becoming Speaker of the National Assembly, the possibility or prospect of “reproduction” is being thrown around, I would like to state with full responsibility that I am not going to become Speaker of the National Assembly, Prime Minister or President of Armenia. For us it’s not a matter of life and death. The constitutional changes are necessary for the country and for the state. If the people accept these changes, very well, if not, pay attention – in accordance to the current Constitution I am free to seek the position of the Speaker of the National Assembly and Prime Minister.” My question is: is this authentic or not, because there is no video or audiotape, just a text. Second, if it is authentic, did I get it right that if the Constitution changes, you will no longer be President, and refuse to become Prime Minister of Speaker of the National Assembly? If the Constitution remains intact, you theoretically accept the possibility of becoming Prime Minister of Speaker of the National Assembly. If yes, and if I got it right, why in one case you decline all positions, but in the other case you admit that there is a possibility you may remain on these position?
Serzh Sargsyan: First, in my deep conviction today that question bears no importance. In my opinion, today the most important is the issue of constitutional changes, and I promise to you all and you personally to answer in detail all questions after the parliamentary elections of 2017, because everything will be decided at that time. As for the quote, the second part of it is 100 percent true. The first part is a little misquoted. Why I am saying after 2017, because to speak seriously about becoming Prime Minister or about forming a government will be justified only when one has majority in parliament. If you don’t have majority in the parliament, with the Constitution changed or unchanged, how can you be Prime Minister, how can you become Prime Minister? There is no such possibility. At that particular meeting, I also said, and I believe we have its stenographic record, and if the topic interests you that much, I will ask the guys to give you that stenographic record. At the same meeting I said, that I would not agree to work even half a day less. I will work until 2018, right until the moment I have to transfer power to another person – Prime Minister, President, etc. In any case, in most probability we will have President – elected directly or by the parliament. That’s why I don’t believe it would be sensible to speak about it now. The approach in any case is the same. The second part was stated unequivocally due to a simple fact that people are exploiting the issue, saying that I am making the changes to go and then to come back. To this I respond, listen, people, the current Constitution provides ample opportunities for that. By the way, I have noticed on your channel on a number of occasions that you explain it to the interlocutors in the same way. Really, there are many opportunities for that; then they go like “they have no presidential candidate, they don’t have this, they don’t have that.” I state responsibly that if the Constitution remains the same, we have at least three presidential candidates, and will choose our main candidate from these three. Not one but three, at least three. The time will come and you will see that I was right, if we have that opportunity. However, if we have changes on December 6, we will speak about it later.
Aram Abrahamian: On April 10, 2014 at your meeting with the expert commission you said, and you’ve been quoted on that, that you personally prefer presidential system, here too you said that you don’t want to be Prime Minister. I mean, why did you say that and whether now you are backing off from it? Are you taking back the words that you don’t want to be Prime Minister, President or NA Speaker?
Serzh Sargsyan: No. I don’t, I wouldn’s say ever, but I don’t take my words back; in daily life or in politics – I am not backing off from anything. I simply don’t want to mix one nice thing, fundamental issue with another issue. That’s my goal. I am not backing off on anything. You should remember that when during the elections we were speaking about secure Armenia, many people ridiculed that idea, but I did stay quite firmly that we would get there, step by step. Many may argue: What kind of a secure Armenia is this, where crimes are being committed every day, as if a secure Armenia implies no crimes at all. But when international structures put Armenia on the list of 10 most secure countries of the world, do you believe now that back then I had had that conviction that we were moving in the right direction? Or Serzh Sargsyan has “bribed” that international structure, just as he “bribed” the Venice Commission, ODHIR which stated that our elections were better than the previous one. “Bribed” everyone? From the UN to the World Bank, are we “bribing” them all? I deliver on my promises. Of course, it happens sometimes soon, sometimes late. When I said in the National Assembly that the construction of the Iran-Armenia railroad is of critical importance for us, same with the North-South highway, three months later everybody was already criticizing, like what happened? As if the Iran-Armenia railroad can be constructed by moving a hand, just like that in three months. But now, when huge amount of money has been pledged and the North-South highway is under construction nobody is mentioning that it was said and it was done, what about that? Three years later, when roads on the border with Georgia and the road in Meghri at the border with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which today takes trucks 9,5 hours to travel, will be traveled in 4,5 hours we will hear the same voices, like “Big deal, our roads are not like those in Switzerland anyway.” But promises will be kept, are kept. When words are misinterpreted or twisted, person who said them is not responsible for that. I make a promise to Aram Abrahamian: to talk about my plans in detail after the elections.
Satik Seiranian, Armenia TV: Mr. President, first and second Presidents of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrossian and Robert Kocharian have spoken about this draft of constitutional changes, and both of them voiced their opposition to it. For instance, Leven Ter-Petrossian said that the purpose of these constitutional changes is to remove constitutional obstacles on the limitations concerning presidential term, and reproduction of the existing regime; he labled it as adventurism. Robert Kocharian said another thing: “There is a huge risk hiden in this draft, I have a feeling that the attempted is made to create in the country a new leading, ruling force, but country has multiple problems, the existing Constitution too provides opportunities to solve them, so there is no need for such step.” How would you comment on the opinions of the two Presidents?
Serzh Sargsyan: Satik, I am not going to comment on the viewpoint of former Presidents, I don’t reserve the right to do it. However, quite naturally I am familiar with their positions and motives. I understand but not accept their position. Nonfounded allegations are unacceptable for me. With due respect to opposite views, I will not accept these accusations. When there are arguments, they can be chanllenged, or I bring my own arguments, and let them challenge these arguments. Today’s Armenia is not the Armenia it was 10 or 20 years ago. Today’s world is not what it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. The geopolitical situation is different, processes have become more dynamic and in some cases even dramatic. Our society has changed too. We are pretty mature society already. Ten or twenty years ago, it was incomprehensible that two main mandates, i.e. President’s and Parliament’s could be divided between different political forces. Nowdays, it is quite acceptable, and seeig danger of a crisis, I cannot remain silent. Today we have three routes in front of us:
Route number one: to leave the processes to develop on their own. this is unacceptable for me.
Route number two: to cut back on democracy. This is also unacceptable for me, because we don’t have resources to do that, and those tales of iron fist are not for me. No such thing. There never was iron fist rule in Armenia and never will be. Armenia needs democracy. Armenia has to regulate her life, to make that life much more enjoyable. We don’t have that kind of resources. Resources like that can be employed by those of our neighbors who have extra cash and don’t know what to do with it: to build roads, to build hospitals, to arrest the opponents, and what have you. The world will say a thing or two, but life will go on, and their power will be strong and they will get 90 percent of votes. We don’t have opportunities like that.
And the third route: It may seem strange to many, but the conflict between these two mandates, which threatens our security, will raise the level of democracy, we address the problem this way. Our task is not to curtail democracy, restrict demonstrations, limit this or that. Our task is to rise one step up, and in the process regulate the functions of the state institutions, of course. When functions of state institutions are mixed up, it cannot be a good thing. There should be only one responsible, rights should be there and of course there must be supervisors for the process to go in the right direction. Today we are a much more mature society, and if someone doesn’t see it, it’s his problem.
Satik Seiranian, Armenia TV: What are the motives behind these statements?
Serzh Sargsyan: There can be multiple, I can say about one; a person for ten years led our country, and in the process constitutions were adopted, first Constitution, then constitutional changes. You see, the Main Law of the land is like a child. Now, they want to change it. I understand it; had they thought otherwise, the Constitution would be different, or changes would be different. These are their convictions. The first President belives the first Constitution we had adopted was the right one, the second one believes the next Constitutions was the right one. But do you believe that opinion of former Presidents should be decisive for me? Once again, I respect every opinion; if one of former Presidents says one thing, and the other says something else, and 15 years later third or fourth Presidents say something, what the acting President is supposed to do? To express opinions is all right, to make ungrounded accusions is bad.
Satik Seiranian: Mr. President, you said that there are problems which exist due to the acting Constitution – security issue, risks, current challenges, external, political, and economic development issues, those in the judicial system. Today, the people are more preoccupied not with those but rather with how the Constitution will improve their lives.
Serzh Sargsyan: Satik, it would be naïve to believe that if the constitutional changes pass, in a week our country will become a paradise, all economic problems will be solved, justice will be executed with the highest standards and, in general, we will be happy. No, it’s not true. By adopting Constitution we revome obstacles and after that our life standard will depend on our work, on the law enforcement structure we will have. Without full participation of our society, it is impossible to create favorable conditions; everyone should be ready to chip in. Constitutions are not created to improve people’s life. Constitutions are created to provide citizens with opportunities to improve their lives. It is obvious that in every country, regardless of the situation, there are dissatisfied individuals, right? There can be no situation in Armenia when everyone is happy with everything. While this “everything”, I repeat should be measured in comparison. Average salary today with average salary ten years ago, every other aspect of life, make comparison within these aspects. What were opportunities available to Mrs. Satik Seiraning ten years ago to express herself freely, and what are the opportunities for Mrs. Satik Seiraning with this regard today. Compare. If you see no difference, it means we work way too bad. If there is a difference, I am not saying we’ve being working well, but at least something has been done. There can be no assessment without comparison, this is my approach.
Satik Seiranian: Who will be representing the country at the Eurasian Economic Union and other places, the President?
Serzh Sargsyan: I don’t thing so, I believe it will be the Prime Minister. It is no problem whatsoever. Just as Mrs. Merkel represents today Germany and, in general, the majority of the European states are represented by Prime Ministers. In BRICS, India is represented by the Prime Minister, and I don’t think anyone would even think about whether this person is President or Prime Minister. If he’s the authorized person, what’s the difference, it’s not the title they negotiate with, right? Negotiations are conducted with the authorized person. If we decide tomorrow that let’s say negotiations on Karabakh issue to be conducted by the Deputy Foreign Minister, he will conduct them. I understand that there is the issue of status, but President or Prime Minister, I don’t see much of a difference, especially after contacting so closely with the European and Eurasian leaders.
Artak Alexanian, Armenia TV: The last question, Mr. President, since my colleages asked the most pressing questions, allow me to get out of the Constitution topic. Recently, the National Security Service has carried out a special operation; over two dozen people were put under arrest. How do you assess all this, are there new facts or details revealed during the preliminary investigation?
Serzh Sargsyan: Of course, I will not reveal anything related to the preliminary investigation, I simply have no right to do it. As for the operation itself, it was carried out exceptionally well. From the moment the National Security Service got on to these people, until the moment they were neutralized. We ought to thank the National Security Service, its employees, the Police for thwarting that catastrophe. At this point, I would like us to focus on the individuals who are trying to undervalue that work. Meanwhile you will not even believe what was found in the lodging, in the apartment where these people were staying. The National Security Service presented the whole list. Can you imagine in our city with a one million residents to use forty hand granades, eleven submachine guns, explosives? Do you think the aircraft traveling from Egypt to Russia was destroyed by an atomic bomb? It was an explosive, put on the plane. This gossip, this nasty gossip is being spread around by the individuals who are disappointed that the group was neutralized; they would be very happy if that group took on action, and a new October 27 or something less awfull or more awfull would happen, they would be happy. Otherwise, where else have they seen such transparency; they cannot wait for one, two, three weeks until the investigation has been concluded, results are presented to the public or directly to the court. Well, they cannot wait for ten, fifteen days, for one month, but if it comes to the court and there is no proof, only then we can accuse the national security bodies. I have no doubt that such individuals represent a tiny segment of our society. On Saturday, I visited two marzes of our Republic, spoke to many people, and they were saying “convey our thanks to the the National Security Service and the Police.” You see, if it were possible to prevent actions like this, our world would be a better place. In our case, we have been able to prevent it. As a rule, preventive actions go unnoticed anywhere in the world, and in our country in particular. When something takes place, voices are heard, “Why didn’t you prevent it?” I once again express gratitude to the national security bodies, to our employees, operatives, technical staff and, of course, to the Police for carring out the task on such a high professional level.