Towards the "Fourth Republic". Armen Sarkissian
Armen Sarkissian, President of the Republic of Armenia
On the Inevitability of Building a Substantive State
The opportunity of restoring the Armenian statehood was the dream of our people for the last few centuries. It stemmed not only from the need for having a national home to preserve own culture, identity, and history, but also from the desire to be able to master our own destiny. This had been the mission of our ancestors, who practically did the impossible: in the absence of statehood, subject to cruel and bloody trials of history, they preserved the ground, the sense of being Armenians - Armenia- and further enriched the Armenian civilization.
Our ancestors left a great heritage and hoped that we would be able to pass it to future generations in a completely different qualitative form.
The history of international relations shows that small countries often fall victim to the interests of big powers, as it happened with Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Those nations managed to build high-quality systemic states, were able to thoughtfully analyze the causes of their failures and sufferings, and work to correct their own mistakes, work out clear visions and development programs. Such states have the capability to meet their citizens' internal needs and protect them from external threats. They can also create conditions which allow to compete with regional and even big powers, merge their own interests with theirs or even become a true and valuable ally.
Such examples exist and they prove that through the right policy, diplomacy and governance even the nations, which do not possess ample natural resources, can start as soldiers but rise to kings.
Today, we are experiencing yet another moment of all-national psychological depression. Whether we will be able to overcome it and establish new principles to build our future depend on us only.
Current failures are nothing but the result of once unresolved, deep-rooted problems, which were accumulating over the last three decades. We all, from top to bottom, apparently have no desire to take a substantive responsibility for our own destiny. And it is not about the lack of criticism, but rather its formal nature. Just like before, we are looking for special footholds and "rescuers" - individuals or countries who will be able to take us in the right direction which will ultimately lead to prosperity and security. In this frantic search, we completely forget that this path is right in front of our eyes and is called the independent Republic of Armenia.
Our millennial dream came true: we have our home, at last, our flag, our coat-of-arms, and our anthem. Finally, we are able to be Armenians in the Armenian state recognized by the international community. For the first time in the course of centuries, Armenians did not lose their territories, but regained historical territories in the 1990s during the war imposed by the adversary many times superior to us its resources. We managed to do that because dreams and dedication were our driving forces. They were filled with the insane energy; every Armenian particle anywhere in the world was maximally charged to achieve the national goal.
Subsequent events showed how much we underestimated that gift of history in reality. Instead of building a substantive state and national construction projects, based on the successful examples of small countries and peoples, we mostly engaged ourselves with imitating activities. The basis of internal immunity, i.e. foundations of the effective system of public administration based on the actual division of responsibilities between the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches, was not laid. It is this model that shapes any society and educates its citizens, which is the core value of any government. Such a citizen can appreciate the significance of being able to vote and being elected. And most importantly, such a citizen will be responsible for his or her own choice, the surroundings, and the country. The absence of such a system is an unacceptable luxury for the countries in difficult and geographically limited conditions.
For the past years, we have not conducted a pan-Armenian inventory to understand what is, for example, the real resource base for elaborating long-term development models for the economy, high technology, military and industrial complex, science, education, and healthcare. That is why we did not have vitally important and efficient strategic concepts of defense policy and security of demography, information, and food. After gaining independence, we did not fill it with specific content.
There is no need to go far for examples. In 1994, we liberated Artsakh, but up to September 27, 2020 we did not have a clear vision of the political future of Artsakh. There were only tactics of preventing a new war through diplomacy, doomed from the very beginning. For twenty years, our adversary asserted that it would not allow a second Armenian state in the Caucasus, acquired modern weapons, engaged in active international lobbying, and established networks of influence around the world for one purpose. For what? The question is rhetorical because the answer is very clear.
We lost at the moment we believed the mission to return Artsakh was over. We did not pay enough attention to the real guarantees of Artsakh's development and strengthening: the population growth (population of Artsakh remained the same for the past three decades), and the improvement of the art of war, armament renewal and equipment. We got relaxed and continued to live as if there were no serious challenges or threats. Of course, the victory in the Artsakh war became an integral part of our identity, and it is obvious that the most terrible consequence today is the crisis of self-perception. The Armenians woke up, lived, worked, and went to bed with the feeling that they were part of a victorious nation. Now, in a search of the answer, they ask, "Who am I now?"
We lost the information war, both externally and internally. For years, we indulged in wishful thinking. These lies had crept everywhere, threatening the national security. In that imaginary world, we supposedly had an organized state, a modern economy and science, a strong army, a democratic society, and free press, but in reality the picture was completely different. We had only managed to deceive ourselves, and thus had already signed the defeat statement.
To throw off all this, we need immense efforts, willpower, and courage to look into the eyes of the bitter reality.
We are in a difficult situation, but we cannot allow Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora feel defeated.
There is a golden rule in politics for all times: never say never. Yes, we have lost today on the battlefield and on the external front, for which the current government must be held accountable. However, other challenges await us, both domestically and internationally. To preserve our statehood and to take it to a fundamentally new level, we must put our emotions aside and start the difficult, and unpleasant, but essential work on ourselves, giving it first priority.
Today, we (and first and foremost, the government that has taken responsibility for its own citizens and Armenians of the world) must acknowledge the existence of a deep political, economic, social and psychological crisis. Citizens have every moral right to demand concrete, timely and meaningful answers on the ways-out of the crisis from the members of the National Assembly elected by them, the government and prime minister.
The President of the Republic also has his role and responsibility.
The division of the society can lead to catastrophic consequences; thus, the country and the people need treatment. The only logical and civilized prescription is off-year elections in reasonable terms with necessary amendments to the Electoral Code and Constitution, which will allow to start the real process of state building from scratch. Until then, a government of national accord must be formed with the help of the institute of the president, one of the legitimate, balanced and impartial branches of power. I see the main mission of that government in achieving three goals.
Firstly, the elimination of immediate consequences of the war: return of all prisoners, hostages and displaced persons, proper treatment and care of the injured, repair of destroyed homes and apartments, provision of normal living conditions, and accommodation for the homeless.
Secondly, creation and implementation of a roadmap to bring the country out of the political and economic crisis.
Thirdly, the reform of the normative and legal framework, providing the necessary conditions for the early elections in reasonable terms, i.e., reforms of the Electoral Code, the law on political parties and, of course, the Constitution. Proceeding from this, the government should be composed of professionals and experts who specialize in specific areas.
I would like to repeat, there is no need to look for "saviors of the nation" or exceptional personalities. The country should be governed by institutions, a system of checks and balances should operate between the branches of power. All citizens, without exception, should respect the law and follow it. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in permanent crises.
The Law in capital letters and following it are the basis of any healthy society and strong state, the guarantee of development and survival. It is on this basis that our political culture must be built. There is no other formula for building a stable state.
Under a parliamentary system of government, the institute of the President is symbolic or formal in appearance, but internally it can be a lifebuoy in any political crisis. As the head of the state and follower of the Constitution, the institute of the President can become the irreplaceable platform where the constitutional ways-out and mechanisms for overcoming the crisis will be formed through a dialogue. The question is: is our Constitution ideal? The answer is one: no, like the constitution of any country. Everywhere in the world, there are ongoing debates and discussions about changing the basic laws of their countries. As a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, I have my opinion on the shortcomings of our Constitution, but as the President of the Republic, I am obliged to follow the letter of the Law. We can give in to emotions, but all political demands must be carried out within the law.
The “Third Republic of Armenia” is a thing of the past, we are facing a new reality that forces us to be very sober, accountable and purposeful. The national carelessness, disorganization, disorder and inconsistency, the false agendas, ideas and approaches that have accompanied us in recent decades must be thrown into the archives of history.
Unfortunately, to date there is no complete perception of the real scale of the dramatic events in Armenia and the Armenian world, and its causes and consequences. We need to understand that a new page of history begins for us with its challenges, and this time with an exceptional imperative to make no mistakes, and to act competently and professionally.
No matter what we call that new page: "New Page", "Restart", "A New Beginning", "The Fourth Republic" or otherwise, the reality is that we are entering a new stage of history.
After the nationwide shock caused by the war and the obligatory transition phase, we must undertake the construction of a new state, conventionally called the "Fourth Republic" in this article.
The change of power in 2018 could have been the beginning of a new phase in our history, for which there were sufficient grounds for people’s unification, enthusiasm and support, but it became the end of the previous phase, without offering a new ideology.
The defeat in the last war was the defeat of that system, not of the soldiers, the people and the nation.
The "Fourth Republic" must become the new ideological, conceptual and substantive basis of our people. The emphasis will be placed on the quality of the state, which requires a radical overhaul of the system of interrelations with our compatriots around the world. Geopolitical perceptions, politics, economy, security, military-industrial complex, medicine, science and education are created by people, and today we are in dire need of the best specialists.
There is no lack of prominent Armenians and never has been; we need to stop just being proud of their existence, and make them part of our state’s reality. For that, it is enough to remove the artificially created Berlin Walls (which are in the Constitution and in the laws) between Armenia and the Armenian communities. Having a lot of experience in communicating with our Diaspora, I can speak with confidence about their huge potential. I shall repeat that in order to discover and use that potential effectively, we need a state systemic approach and proper governance.
Hard work is expected, but I do not doubt the final success. The main thing is that everyone should believe in it and participate in the work of bringing that day closer within their abilities and opportunities.
We do not have time and chance to think long. The time has come for cold-hearted, quick and effective actions to create an efficient, disciplined and organized modern country based on new technologies and thinking, the FUTURE ARMENIA, ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The ways to reach it will be discussed in the future.