Two years ago the political regime in Armenia was changed as a result of protest actions. Among the reasons for the protests in 2018 were: corruption, low living standards, high unemployment, Serzh Sargsyan’s ineffective leadership of the country as President of Armenia and his subsequent promotion to the post of Prime Minister.
The so-called “Velvet Revolution” or “The 2018 Armenian Revolution” took place, as a result of which the leader of the revolution turned into a permanent Prime Minister, a significant layer of political elites was replaced, and a number of reforms were carried out affecting all important areas of the country. Decisive changes have taken place in the life of Armenia. The new authorities of Armenia regularly report on new achievements and successes, but is everything as good as they are trying to present to the people and the world community? Over the past two years, enough questions have accumulated to the new leadership of Armenia, and the main one should be asked to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, namely, what kind of people he brought with him to big politics.
We should start with the prominent party members of Prime Minister Pashinyan. In 2018, the My Step Alliance took part in the Yerevan-mayor elections. Bloc candidate Hayk Marutyan won them. A year later, his activity in such a responsible post was seriously criticized by the residents of Yerevan. A poll conducted in the spring of 2019 showed that his work as mayor of Yerevan is estimated at 3.3 points on a five-point scale. Since the winter of 2019, criticism of the mayor has intensified. In his election program, he promised a complete replacement of the deplorable elevators, the resettlement of residents from emergency houses, the construction of underground and aboveground parking lots, as well as a new metro station. As a result, in two years the replacement of unsafe elevators turned into their repair, and it was decided to repair emergency buildings as well. There are still problems with parking spaces in the city. The timing of the construction of the new metro station has not yet been determined. It is very strange to see the disruption of work on the implementation of the 5-year development program for the capital of Armenia, because, as Hayk Marutyan stated in one of his interviews, his wife (a citizen of the Czech Republic Iva Marutyan) and numerous friends both in Armenia and abroad actively help him in his work as mayor. The new mayor of Yerevan has 3 years to fulfill his election promises.
Many deputies of the Armenian National Assembly from the My Step Alliance maintain close ties with pro-Western organizations, including such controversial ones as the Open Society Foundations (OSF). For example, deputy Gayane Abrahamyan could be named. She led the organization “For Equal Rights”, and, according to data from open sources, has received $ 210,000 from the OSF over the past two years.
The Chairman of the National Assembly of Armenia, First Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan also has close ties with pro-Western foundations such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Initiatives for Development of Armenia Foundation (IDeA), and the Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD). Vice Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Alen Simonyan is connected to the European Education & Research Center. In 2008 he was trained there under the program “PR and political technologies”.
Such close contacts play into the hands of the West in imposing its own interests and values. It is necessary to recall the recent ratification of the Lanzarote Convention, which took place against the backdrop of protests in the capital. Many public figures expressed their opinion on the ratification of this international act, and their opinion is that not all provisions of the conventions are suitable for the Armenian society. In addition, the current national legislation copes with its tasks without adjustment from outside. The next step, predictably, will be the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which threatens an even greater split in the Armenian society. Ratification of the Istanbul Convention will allow the LGBT community to conduct propaganda, which does not meet the moral norms of the Armenian society. Nikol Pashinyan does not hide his sympathy for people with a non-traditional orientation. For example, he publicly supported weightlifter Meline Daluzyan, who changed sex and became Mel. It was a bold act, but he should take into account the fact that 89% of the country’s population consider themselves supporters of the Armenian Apostolic Church, who do not share his opinion.
In 2018, a close friend of the current Prime Minister of Armenia, deputy Sasun Mikaelyan and 9 other deputies of the National Assembly of Armenia issued personal guarantees, asking the court to change the preventive measure against mafia boss Alik Banduryan (Alik Noratussky), the punishment remained unchanged. This situation proves merger between national authority and crime in Armenia.
Former Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister Arsen Gasparyan, who dealt with economic issues, was soon fired. The reason for the dismissal is the ineffective work, which contributed to the withdrawal of investments from Armenia. Unfortunately, Arsen Gasparyan has problems not only with public finances, but also with his own. The open media often provide information about his US citizenship, as well as about his litigation in the United States on his financial debts.
Another important issue is the personnel policy of the new Prime Minister of Armenia. One of the most controversial decisions of Nikol Pashinyan is the appointment of Argisht Elbekovich Kyaramyan to the post of Director of the National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia. The new head of the NSS of RA was born in 1991. He had an incredible career growth from a police officer, investigator, official of the State Revenue Committee to director. His appointment caused discontent. Several dozen experienced NSS officers wrote a letter of resignation, refusing to work under his command. Armenian political circles are convinced that with the help of the young director of the National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan will remove people who interfere with the new government.
In 2019, Argishta Karamyana incorrectly submitted his income tax return, which did not fully indicate the items on real estate. After taking office in April 2019, the acting Head of the State Control Service Kyaramyan was at the epicenter of public discussions due to the declared funds. He was forced to comment on this, which raised even more questions. He explained that most of the money was donated by a living-abroad uncle, whose name is unknown.
Another scandalous decision is the appointment of Stepa Safaryan to the post of Chairman of the Public Council in December 2019. He has been the head of the Armenian Institute of International Relations and Security since 2014. Also he was a member of the National Assembly of Armenia. He is known as a pro-Western politician who harshly criticizes Russia and the EAEU, which is absolutely inconsistent with Nikol Pashinyan’s statements about his desire to maintain and develop friendly relations with Russia.
The new Prime Minister does not hesitate to use nepotism in his work. Previously, he repeatedly reproached the past President and Prime Minister of the country Serzh Sargsyan for this. In June 2020, Vahe Ghazaryan, who has been friends with the Prime Minister since childhood, became the new chief of the Armenian police. The Prime Minister’s wife and daughter regularly travel with public funds, the most striking example was in 2019 in Brussels. In May 2020, in open media appeared information about the involvement of Nikol Pashinyan’s nephew, Sipan Pashinyan, and Anna Hakobyan’s brother, Hrachya Hakobyan, in the organization of the illegal cigarette business.
The biggest challenge of this year is the fight against COVID-19. The Armenian authorities are making every effort to combat the spread of this dangerous disease, using both domestic opportunities and international assistance, but, unfortunately, these measures are frankly insufficient and the situation in the country is only getting worse. Financial support for the population is minimal; there is a shortage of hospital beds. As of the end of July 2020, more than 35 thousand people have been infected in Armenia.
The deadly virus has also entered the Armenian parliament. On June 30, 2020 it was reported that 8 deputies from the ruling My Step alliance were diagnosed with coronavirus. The following deputies from the ruling bloc were infected: Hayk Gevorgyan, Christine Poghosyan, Victor Yengibaryan, Hakob Simidyan (secretary of the faction), Karen Hambardzumyan, Tsovinar Martirosyan, Aren Mkrtchyan, Lilit Stepanyan. The infected deputies have repeatedly attended parliamentary sessions.
It is noteworthy that at the beginning of June 2020 Nikol Pashinyan also fell ill with coronavirus. He was ill for only one week without symptoms. His recovery period surprised many journalists. They are convinced that his illness was being staged, and that the Prime Minister in this way only skillfully uses the unfavorable epidemiological situation in the country to his own benefit. The state of emergency allowed him to avoid a referendum and to adopt a package of amendments to the country’s constitution through the Armenian parliament, in which the majority of seats belong to his alliance. Such actions could be explained by the low ratings of the Prime Minister and his alliance among the Armenian population. There are signs of consolidation of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition in the country. Nikol Pashinyan’s actions are motivated by the desire to usurp power, while the state of emergency is used to control the opposition. The state of emergency will operate in the country until August 12, with the possibility of its extension.
The logical conclusion can be drawn: Nikol Pashinyan’s entourage and his personnel policy are fairly and reasonably criticized. Many deputies and officials do not have sufficient professionalism, and some of them do not deserve their positions because of their low moral and professional qualities. They seem to be in power by accident, pursuing their own selfish interests. The decisions made by the Prime Minister o not meet the true interests of the people of Armenia, as it was with amendments to the constitution and the adoption of the Lanzarote Convention through the Pashinyan-loyal parliament. If the authorities continue such a policy that runs counter to traditional Armenian values, then they will undermine public trust and contribute to an internal political crisis. It is important that all members of the My Step alliance must be aware of their personal responsibility for the failed social and economic policy in the country. The population of Armenia needs to analyze the activities of the ruling political force, because after 2 years many problems remain unresolved and new ones are already being added to them. In the spring of 2018, the people of Armenia protested for a different future.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.