Publications of experts CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Ruben Megrabian: “Post-revolutionary Armenia today. Reform agenda vs hybrid war »

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In Yerevan, the post-revolutionary period has repeatedly stated, including at the highest level, that a hybrid war is being waged against Armenia and its authorities, the ultimate goal of which is to overthrow the legitimate power elected in a free election, deprive the country of its will and opportunity to exercise itself. as a subject.

Intermediate goals include: torpedoing any attempt to change the system; creating in a society of uncertainty, anxiety, uncertainty, distrust of power; demonstration of the alleged inability of the authorities to take any decisive action towards reform; the formation of expectations that, despite the fact that only a year and a half of the five-year mandate had passed, "this power remained small."

Prime Minister Nicole Pashinyan, commenting on his September 2019 decision to remove Artur Vanetsian from his post as director of the National Security Service, called his loss of confidence in connection with the coup attempt. Vanetsian subsequently applied for political entry, which found approval in circles close to the former authorities, including, as reported by the media, among well-known Moscow major Armenian businessmen. However, to speak of some success of Mr. Vanetsyan in the political sphere is not necessary for various reasons, in the first place - inconsistency of his activity with political logic, as well as the negative reputation which has developed in connection with his activity, and the lack of a team with political content.

This topic began to spin again after the affirmative response of Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan to the question of whether the coup was an attempt.

Questions naturally arose, in particular - where are the criminal cases? A few days later, at a large press conference in Kapan on January 25, Pashinyan corrected A. Grigoryan by stating that he had a "hybrid coup attempt", suggesting that there appeared to be no legal basis for bringing the case. However, the questions remained as to what was the key word in the phrase "hybrid coup attempt", and what does it even mean?

It seems that the clarity on these issues is unanswered until further developments in the country continue.

However, in the current situation it is unambiguous that a hybrid war is being waged against Armenia and its authorities with full use of its information and propaganda component (according to the classification of Ukrainian political scientist Yevgeny Magda, see also here). We are talking about the involvement of the media inside the country, hundreds of users of social networks (including fake), and a number of internal proxy groups in the form of "NGOs", "public initiatives", etc.

It is important to consider the essence and contexts of the six key false narratives that, in an aggressive form, are directly or indirectly thrown into the information field of Armenia. Behind them are clearly seen as "interested" and "performers".

"Political persecution of opponents", criminal cases against ex-presidents

With the start of criminal prosecution of ex-presidents of Armenia Robert Kocharian (under the articles "for overthrowing the constitutional system" and "getting a bribe" in the framework of the "case of March 1") and Serzh Sargsyan (under the article "for especially large-scale theft" in the case of the embezzlement of $ 1 million in the distribution of diesel fuel), as well as a number of other high-ranking officials (some of whom are hiding from justice abroad, mainly in Russia), estimates of their "political persecution" began to circulate in the statements of the former ruling party, its individual representatives, affiliated lawyers, lawyers, human rights defenders, and from their submission - a number of media outlets.

On the one hand, the executive branch is completely and plainly baptized from such accusations, referring to the independence of investigative bodies, prosecutors and courts. On the other hand, the congestion of the investigative bodies, the poor efficiency of the prosecutor's office and the unreliability of the unreformed judicial system leave too many gaps to allow opponents of the current authorities to pedal the subject. However, the effectiveness of this in terms of shaping the public perception they need is extremely low, since the unambiguous reputation of those involved in virtually closes all other possibilities, and if there is discontent in society, only by the fact that cases are too protracted and those hiding from justice are not delivered to the country.

"Pashinyan regime" and "dictatorship is forming in Armenia"

The fact that the leading hybrid war against Armenia and its authorities in the main borrowed the whole "school" of Russian propaganda and projected it into Armenia, adapting to a specific agenda and its internal realities, has been noticed for a long time. (A leading analyst at the London IHS Markit Research Center, Markit Lilith Gevorgyan, systematically presented this in a series of interviews in the Armenian press). It was also noted that the alarmist publications on the "impending dictatorship" and the "authoritarian regime of Pashinyan" were written off from the tracing paper of the entire campaign against the authorities of Georgia and Ukraine in previous years.

In fact, the high rating of the head of government and high public expectations appear to be prerequisites, and even the fact that “authoritarian regime” is formed, and tough measures against corrupt officials, criminals, adoption of laws on anti-corruption bodies, on the fight against criminal (“thieves”). subcultures - as "forming a dictatorship". Given the reality, as well as those who "complain" about the "dictatorship", it can be argued that this not only does not refract public perception for the benefit of those who promote this narrative, but also causes overwhelming rejection.

"The new government created an atmosphere of hatred"

The "atmosphere of hatred" in Armenia began to be talked about in the days of the rise of civilian protest during the Velvet Revolution, even before the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, and the representatives of the former regime spoke most vigorously about it.

This was their only response to allegations of corruption, usurpation of power, monopolization of the economy, etc., not counting a "dry" denial of allegations. Currently, similar charges are being brought against the authorities in that they "do not forbid" different users from expressing themselves on social media in a rude manner in response to frankly false and provocative publications by various media affiliated with the former regime, which appear to be "dissent" or "right" on your own point of view. "

Of course, the use of profanity is not subject to any "explanation" or justification, but if and in some ways the authorities can be blamed, it is not enough consistency in bringing the information field in accordance with European standards, which will minimize the possibility of publications of irresponsible and false news, as well as transparency in the financial activities of the media.

It is important to emphasize that it cannot be a matter of going beyond the standards of democratic practice. N. Pashinyan, in particular, spoke about it, noting that as the media requires transparency from the government, the government must work with the media in the logic of reciprocity. The Ombudsman of Armenia, journalistic organizations, different NGOs almost on a weekly basis make statements calling for an end to the "hate language", but, as the development shows, without much success, it is hardly possible to remedy the situation with one exhortation if the state does not take up the issue .

According to media reports, the preparation of relevant legislative packages is in the final stages. In addition, at the moment, the press service of state institutions, non-governmental fact-checking sites are more responsive to certain fake or provocative discharges.

"New power corrupts relations with the West", "New power corrupts relations with Russia"

Relations with the outside world have become one of the major challenges facing the new revolutionary command in power, and reformatting them in the direction of the West, Russia, and neighboring countries has become a matter of paramount importance.

At the same time, this particular field of activity has become one of the main targets of hybrid attacks since the first days of the Velvet Revolution. Not only did the new authorities not only build a new relationship, they were already devoid of corruption logic and motivation from the Armenian side, but also to defend themselves against "toxic" attacks on the topic "new power corrupts relations with the West" and "new power corrupts relations with Russia" . And, at the same time, and sometimes - even by the same subjects, who set themselves the goal to create maximum complexity and to ensure failure.

In the post-revolutionary period, as we can see, no failure has not only happened, but programs are being implemented that were not discussed before the revolution and speech. In particular, with Russia - in terms of military-technical cooperation, with the EU - economic cooperation, assistance in institutional development, as well as quite successful activities of Armenian parliamentary diplomacy in PACE and other international sites.

Moreover, Yerevan intensified relations with Georgia and Iran, as well as with the Gulf countries, Israel, Jordan, and reached a high level of political dialogue.

However, even now, especially in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, the topic is continuing.

"New power surrenders to Karabakh"

It is also a topic that dates back to the period preceding the change of power in April 2018 and is periodically warmed up synchronously with the cycles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

In some cases, the authorities are accused of intentionally "surrendering Karabakh", in other cases - "making incomprehensible statements" that "lead" again to the "surrender of Karabakh". This is the most vulnerable topic, not because Yerevan's positions in the negotiation process have somehow been “weakened” (which has absolutely no prerequisites), but because of the confidentiality of the process as such, which implies a sharp limitation of the possibilities of substantially refuting the most delusions.

Moreover, following the results of the Geneva meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the mediation of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (from the USA, France, Russia), after a long discussion, a joint statement was signed and signed by all participants. This statement specifically addresses the need for confidentiality in the negotiation process. And after the meeting, the parties did not go beyond what was stated in the joint statement in their statements to internal audiences, against the backdrop of a sharp decline in military activity on the contact line.

However, this does not guarantee that there will be no discharges from internal actors in the form of attacks on the authorities (both in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, where the election campaign is gaining momentum).

Also, the topic is periodically heated by individual "opinions" of individual Russian "experts", who do not say in the affirmative, but in affirmative form, about some scenarios that "Sure to happen", including on domestic policy topics related to security.

Judicial Reform - Attack on the Independence of the Courts

The problem of the judicial system, which has been delaying reforms and pushing for resistance to the system, has risen in recent weeks (see the CIAAC website on the situation in the Armenian judicial system here).

The political team in power passed a law allowing members of the Constitutional Court to receive, in the case of voluntary resignation, benefits in the amount of their current salary until retirement age, pending that the matter would be settled peacefully. However, the new circumstances that emerged later became the basis for criminal cases on a number of articles, one of the defendants of which became the head of the Constitutional Court, Greer Tovmasyan.

In addition, the intricate provisions in the transitional legislation, the “chief architect” of which was Tovmasyan himself in 2014-15, as well as the early, three weeks before the retirement age, the resignation of the ex-head of the Constitutional Court and the election of Tovmasyan for this post created a “strange »The situation. It turns out that before the retirement age of Tovmasyan himself (and it will only be in 2035) there is no legal opportunity to remove him from office.

And the ruling bloc, headed by N. Pashinyan, decided to cut Gordiev's knot through a referendum, which had already been appointed by presidential decree on April 5, 2020.

The advantage in this situation at present is, above all, that all these narratives are broken not only and not so much by some purposeful action of the authorities or interested public groups as by the inevitable clash with realities. And the forthcoming referendum will become to a large extent a vote of confidence of the current authorities, a new impetus in the reform process, above all - the judicial system. This should add to the power of self-confidence and also be able to break the moral and political base of the remnants of the previous regime in terms of their propaganda potential.

For this there are all possibilities also in terms of external conditions, because after what they have done in Russia with their constitution, the last thing Moscow can afford from the standpoint of common sense is to make any evaluations (no matter what) regarding the processes around of the Armenian Constitution.

… It is noteworthy that the referendums in Armenia (05.04.2020/12.04.2020/XNUMX) and Russia (XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX) come on Palm Sunday - a week before Easter.

Ruben Megrabian, Expert of Armenian Institute of International Relations and Security (Yerevan)