Serzh Sargsyan’s second and final term in office is coming to an end. He assumed the position of the RA president 10 years ago in 2008. During the two presidential elections, Sargsyan presented a pre-election program, which he promised to implement if he was elected president. However, not all the promises were fulfilled. Let us address some of them.
Economy and democracy
“I assure you that I will never allow any regression in any field, be it economy, democracy, or human rights,” Serzh Sargsyan said during the 2008 presidential election campaign.
In 2009, just one year after Serzh Sargsyan’s promise, 14․1% economic decline was registered in Armenia. However, Serzh Sargsyan blamed the global financial crisis in the economic failures. In 2013, Serzh Sargsyan announced, “the government which will not ensure 7 percent economic growth should resign”. Note that this figure was ensured neither by Tigran Sargsyan’s, nor by Hovik Abrahamyan’s government. But the latter continued in office.
Let us also consider the poverty rate in Armenia as an economic indicator. In this aspect, Serzh Sargsyan “has kept his promise,” and no decline has been registered. On the contrary, the poverty rate has continued to grow. According to the report “Poverty Rate in Armenia in 2008-2016” published by the RA National Statistical Service, the number of poor people in the country has increased. Thus, 27.6% of the RA population was poor in 2008, and that figure made up 29.4% in 2016. Foreign investments in Armenia have also decreased. In 2008 about $ 1 billion foreign investment was made in Armenia. In 2016 this figure was $ 130.4 million, i.e. almost eight times less than in 2008.
Let’s also add that in the course of these years Armenia’s foreign debt has increased several times, the promised nuclear power plant, the Iran-Armenia railway, the construction of the North-South highway are proceeding very slowly.
Armenia has also had a regress in democracy and human rights. At the beginning of 2017, the international centers Economist Intelligence Unit and Freedom House gave a lower rank to Armenia in their democracy and freedoms lists. Before the Economist Intelligence Unit used to rank Armenia among semi-authoritarian states, and in 2016 Armenia was ranked among authoritarian states, appearing next to Nigeria, Mauritania, Kuwait, and Cote d’Ivoire. Armenia has also registered regress in the Freedom House’s list of transitional countries, appearing next to Honduras, Tanzania, Bhutan, and Nicaragua.
Foreign affairs and security
Both in 2008 and in 2013, promises related to foreign affairs and security were among the cornerstones of Serzh Sargsyan’s election campaign.
According to Sargsyan’s election program, Armenia’s foreign relations should be multipolar and balanced, bilateral interstate relations should be deepened, their development should be guided by the prioritization of protection of Armenia’s political, economic and other types of interests. However, in fact, Armenia has appeared among a “group” of countries with conflicting interests. Armenia’s economic ties with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are not close, and these countries even have opposing positions with regard to important political issues.
In the case of Russia, the situation is more saddening since during the last 10 years Armenia’s dependence on Russia has become deeper, instead of enhancement of bilateral relations between the countries. This is most noticeable in the energy sector, where Russia’s monopoly status is directly proportional to Armenia’s potential energy crisis. During Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency, Armenia handed over 20% of its shares to Russia in return to the “debt”. Even Iran-Armenia pipeline belongs to “Gazprom.” The enhancement of unbalanced relations with Russia was largely justified by security considerations. However, this thesis was disproved during April War with Azerbaijan in 2016, when Armenia had more than 100 casualties and territorial losses, and Serzh Sargsyan talked about fighting with “80s’ weapons.”
Moreover, it should be noted that the supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan, which caused the April war, largely started during Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency in 2010.
It should also be noted that Armenia signed the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union in 2017. The negotiations between the EU and Armenia on the association agreement were completed in 2013. However, it was never signed because Armenia became a member of the Customs Union, and later on the Eurasian Economic Union, which drastically undermined the reputation of official Yerevan as a reliable partner.
Good governance system
According to Serzh Sargsyan, a good governance system means to manage public funds through the laws of business, save every penny, consistently increasing the efficiency and transparency of the activities of the state.
Instead of saving public funds, the government has made a number of scandalous public procurements, which failed to be used for their purposes. This is particularly true of the bio-toilets purchased at 124 million AMD, and the Dilijan Education Center of the RA Ministry of Finance, which cost 26 billion AMD. The center in Dilijan did not serve its purpose and was eventually handed over to the RA Ministry of Defense, and the bio-toilets still do not function. It should be noted that spending cuts eventually took place, for instance, cuts on education spending. In 2017, 2.3% of the GDP was spent on education, while in 2018 the figure will form 2.18%, 1.99% in 2019, and 1.8% in 2020.
Besides, it is a long time since Armenia’s governance system has been in crisis. According to Parkinson’s Law, “a low-skilled official will never employ higher-skilled employees.” As a result, the given system functions with low efficiency due to the lack of technocrat professionals. The best evidence of this disease is the presence of officials with no higher education (and often with a criminal past) among high-ranking officials and lawmakers.
Proportionate territorial development
The last point of the 2008 election program referred to the proportionate territorial development. One of the best indicators of proportionality of development is the poverty rate in the country. According to the report “Poverty in Armenia in 2008-2016”, the poverty rate in Yerevan is 24%, while it makes up 33.2% in other cities of the country. Moreover, this difference is even larger when you compare RA marzes (regions) with each other. For instance, 30% of the population in Armavir marz is poor, while this figure makes up 45.5% in Shirak marz.
It should be noted that in 2017, 9 years after Serzh Sargsyan’s promises, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan announced about sharply disproportionate territorial development in Armenia. In addition to a number of assignments, Karapetyan announced that all regional governors should be sent to regional governance courses at the American University of Armenia. By the way, the courses were never organized.
Thus, we can state that important clauses of Serzh Sargsyan’s 2008 election program not only failed to be fulfilled, but they have suffered a serious regress in a number of directions.