RFE/RL Armenian Report – 10/10/2018

                                        Wednesday, 
New Yerevan Mayor Takes Office
• Narine Ghalechian
Armenia - Newly elected Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutian speaks to journalists, 10 
October 2018.
A 41-year-old comedian allied to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian took 
over as mayor of Yerevan on Wednesday at the inaugural session of the new city 
council elected late last month.
Hayk Marutian topped the list of candidates of Pashinian’s My Step alliance 
which won over 80 percent of the vote in municipal elections held on September 
23. The landslide victory earned it 57 of the 65 seats in the council.
Under Armenian law, the top candidate of a party or bloc gaining an outright 
majority in the municipal legislature automatically becomes Yerevan mayor. 
Marutian will be officially sworn in on Saturday.
“We have a historic opportunity to make our long-standing dreams come true,” 
the new mayor told the council.
“I am confident that with this composition of the Council of Elders we will 
make sure that our fellow Yerevan residents smile every day, every hour, every 
second,” he said.
Armenia - Members of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's My Step alliance vote at 
the inaugural session of Yerevan's municipal council, .
Nicknamed “Kargin Hayko,” Marutian is famous for his performances in popular 
comedy shows aired by Armenian TV channels. He has also produced his own shows 
and films in the past several years.
A strong backer of Pashinian, Marutian actively participated in mass protests 
in April and May that brought down Armenia’s former government headed by Serzh 
Sarkisian.
Marutian’s predecessor, Taron Markarian, is a senior member of Sarkisian’s 
Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Markarian, in office since 2011, resigned in 
July under pressure from Pashinian’s government.
The HHK majority in the previous city council decided not to appoint another 
Republican mayor, paving the way for the September 23 elections. The former 
ruling party did not participate in them.
Speaking to reporters, Marutian seemed to rule out staff purges within the 
municipal administration which Pashinian and his allies have for years accused 
of corruption. He said he will not fire “professionals willing to work under 
the rules of new Armenia.”
“If people are ready to serve, if they have no problems with the law, I am 
ready to work with those who can be of use,” he said.
Commenting on his immediate tasks, Marutian said: “First of all, we need to 
solve the problem of garbage collection and then step by step switch to other 
issues which we presented in our campaign manifesto.”
Armenia - Commuter minibuses are parked on a street during a public transport 
strike in Yerevan, 16 January 2018.
The new mayor also faces the daunting task of overhauling the Armenian 
capital’s outdated system of public transportation, a key source of complains 
from Yerevan residents.
Ever since the mid-1990s, the system has been dominated by minibuses belonging 
to private companies, many of them owned by government-linked individuals or 
even government officials themselves. Few of them have invested in their fleet 
of aging vehicles in the past decade. The minibuses as well as a smaller number 
of buses provided by the municipality have become even more overcrowded as a 
result.
A British consulting firm contracted by the municipality submitted last year 
detailed recommendations on how to revamp the transport network. Former Mayor 
Markarian’s administration essentially accepted them, pledging to replace the 
battered minibuses with new and larger buses by the end of 2018.
One of Markarian’s deputies said in August 2017 that the long-awaited change 
will require as much as $100 million in investments, a sum equivalent to almost 
57 percent of the entire municipal budget. He said the municipal authorities 
hope to attract a “foreign investor” that would run the new network and foot 
the bill.
Marutian said that he and his aides will look into the British firm’s 
proposals. If they are deemed realistic and free of “corruption risks” the new 
mayor’s office will be ready to implement them, he added.
Pashinian In Fresh Talks With Former Ruling Party
• Ruzanna Stepanian
ARMENIA -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian addresses supporters during 
a rally outside the parliament building in Yerevan early, October 3, 2018
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met with parliamentary leaders of former 
President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Wednesday one 
day after it effectively pledged not to derail his plans to force snap general 
elections in December.
Pashinian praised the HHK move as “reasonable” after meeting with parliament 
speaker Ara Babloyan in the National Assembly building in Yerevan.
“The purpose of my visit is to resolve this political situation in an 
atmosphere of utter stability and calm,” he told reporters. “After yesterday’s 
statement by the Republican Party I found it necessary to come here today.”
In that statement, the HHK’s parliamentary faction said it “did not and does 
not have an intention to nominate a candidate” for the post of prime minister 
if Pashinian steps down this month for tactical reasons. But it said it 
continues to believe that the polls must be held in May or June next year.
Under the Armenian constitution, the National Assembly can be dissolved only if 
the prime minister resigns and lawmakers fail to replace him or her within two 
weeks.
Pashinian, who also held talks with HHK faction leader Vahram Baghdasarian, 
reaffirmed his declared plans to tender his resignation this month. But he 
again decline to give any dates for the resignation. “It’s a matter of some 
calculation,” he said.
The popular premier also warned the HHK’s potential decision to nominate or 
endorse another prime-ministerial candidate would amount to an “attempt to 
destabilize situation in country.” “I am glad that people correctly assessed 
the situation,” he said of the HHK statement.
The statement came after at least ten lawmakers representing Sarkisian’s party 
broke ranks to call for holding the elections before the end of this year. The 
HHK’s deputy chairman, Armen Ashotian, claimed that at least some of them did 
so as result of government pressure and even intimidation.
Pashinian denied that, saying that the HHK dissenters simply “listened to the 
voice of the people.”
Pashinian reacted furiously when the HHK hastily pushed through the parliament 
late on October 2 a bill that called into question the success of his plans.
The bill was also backed by the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun 
parties that were represented in the current government at that point. 
Pashinian publicly fired the six government ministers affiliated with those 
parties as thousands of his supporters rallied outside the parliament building 
on that night.
The BHK dropped its objections to the December elections a few days later. The 
party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian controls 31 seats in the current 
105-member parliament, compared with 50 seats held by the HHK.
Russian-Armenian Military Force Holds Drills
Armenia - A joint Russian-Armenian military force holds exercises at the 
Marshal Bagramian training ground, .
Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan watched on Wednesday exercises held by a joint 
Russian-Armenian military force which Moscow and Yerevan agreed to reinforce 
two years ago.
The weeklong exercises began on Monday, with hundreds of Armenian and Russian 
soldiers backed up by tanks, artillery systems and combat helicopter simulating 
defensive operations. Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported earlier that one of 
their objectives will be to “step up protection of the state border.”
A ministry statement released on Wednesday said military officials briefed 
Tonoyan on the course ofthe drills held at the Marshal Bagramian training 
ground 50 kilometers west of Yerevan. The minister then watched soldiers of the 
Russian-Armenian United Grouping of Troops defeat an imaginary invader, said 
the statement.
Armenia - Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan (C) talks to Russian and Armenian 
soldiers participating in joint exercises at the Marshal Bagramian training 
ground, .
The joint force was originally set up in 2000. It comprises troops from the 
Russian military base in Armenia and the Armenian army’s Fifth Corps mainly 
deployed along the Turkish border. A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in 
November 2016 was meant to upgrade its mission and ascertain its 
command-and-control structure.
In particular, the agreement stipulates that the commander of the 
Russian-Armenian unit is appointed by Armenia’s political leadership. The 
commander is subordinate to the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff in 
times of peace. He may report to the head of Russia’s Southern Military 
District in case of a war or imminent military aggression against Armenia or 
Russia.
Another Russian-Armenian agreement signed in late 2015 created a new, more 
closely integrated system of joint air defense. The Russian and Armenian 
militaries have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace ever since the 
mid-1990s.
Armenian Tycoon Charged After Arrest
• Naira Bulghadarian
Armenia - Businessman Samvel Mayrapetian at the official opening of his 
Toyota-Yerevan car dealership in Yerevan, 23 June 2009.
A wealthy Armenian businessman who has benefited from government connections in 
the past was remanded in pre-trial custody on corruption charges late on 
Tuesday.
A court in Yerevan allowed the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to keep 
Samvel Mayrapetian under arrest for two months after he was formally charged 
with “assisting bribery.”
A lawyer for Mayrapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) his 
client denies the charge and that he will therefore appeal against the court’s 
decision.
The SIS has so far refused to publicize any details of the accusation. It thus 
remains unclear whom it accuses or suspects of accepting a bribe with the 
tycoon’s help.
Mayrapetian is one of the country’s leading real estate developers who also 
owns a national TV channel and a car dealership. His company was involved in a 
controversial redevelopment of old districts in downtown Yerevan during the 
1998-2008 rule of President Robert Kocharian.
Media outlets critical of the former government for years linked Kocharian’s 
elder son Sedrak to the Toyota dealership officially belonging to Mayrapetian.
Kocharian is currently under investigation over his role in the deadly breakup 
of post-election demonstrations in Yerevan staged during the final weeks of his 
decade-long presidency. Last month, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) 
launched a separate corruption inquiry into the embattled ex-president.
The NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, said on September 11 that investigators are 
scrutinizing what he described as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of 
assets belonging to Kocharian and his family members. Vanetsian promised two 
weeks later that their findings will be made public “soon.”
Kocharian has denied enriching himself or his family while in office and 
accused the current Armenian authorities of waging a political “vendetta” 
against him. He has only admitted that his two sons are engaged in 
entrepreneurial activity.
Armenian PM To Resign ‘By October 16’
Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his wife Anna Hakobian talk to a 
robot at an economic forum held ahead of a Francophonie summit in Yerevan, 10 
October 2018.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Wednesday that he is planning to tender 
his resignation by October 16 to ensure that snap parliamentary elections are 
held in Armenia in early December.
Under the Armenian constitution, the current parliament will be dissolved if it 
fails to elect another prime minister within two weeks after Pashinian’s 
resignation. None of the parliamentary factions is expected to try to replace 
him by another premier.
“I can say tentatively that the elections will take place approximately on 
December 9 or 10, plus or minus several days, Pashinian told the France24 TV 
channel in an interview that will be aired in full on Thursday.
“To this end, I have to tender my resignation by October 16,” he said.
The constitution allows Pashinian to continue to perform his prime-ministerial 
duties at least until the inaugural session of the new parliament.
The 43-year-old premier, who controls only a handful of seats in the current 
National Assembly, stepped up his push for the early elections after his 
alliance won more than 80 percent of the vote in the September 23 municipal 
elections in Yerevan. Observers believe that his political team will gain a 
comfortable majority in the new parliament as well.
Press Review
Lragir.am sees deepening divisions within Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party 
(HHK). “The criminal-oligarchic system is on its way out and its political 
carriers -- the HHK, the BHK and Dashnaktsutyun -- have found themselves in a 
state of uncertainty,” comments the publication. “The BHK tried to save itself 
by putting itself at the mercy of the people and the new authorities, the HHK 
is in the final stage of disintegration, while Dashnaktsutyun in a pathetic 
position.”
“Aravot” is not surprised by the BHK’s and some HHK lawmakers’ “pledges of 
allegiance to the new authorities.” The paper believes that individual business 
interests were behind these political moves. “Entrepreneurs engaged in politics 
have clear interests,” it says in an editorial. “There is no BHK, there is 
businessman Gagik Tsarukian who keeps a party based on his calculations. There 
is no HHK, there are businessmen who kept a party at Serzh Sarkisian’s urging. 
The current authorities have no ties to those businessmen or a vested interest 
in seeing them in the parliament. That is a cause for optimism in the sense 
that businessmen should no longer feel the need to set up or keep parties and 
enter the parliament. This will finally separate business from politics and the 
state system.”
“Zhoghovurd” says that the HHK is “conceding its defeat” in the fight against 
Nikol Pashinian. “This was certainly expected, especially after what happened 
on October 2 when citizens, responding to an appeal from Pashinian, surrounded 
the National Assembly to demand pre-term elections,” writes the paper. “In this 
situation, the HHK had no choice to but acknowledge its defeat in a dignified 
way and agree to the holding of pre-term parliamentary elections.”
“Zhamanak” comments on the arrest of Samvel Mayrapetian, a wealthy businessman 
reputedly linked to former Armenian governments. The paper says that although 
the arrest did not cause uproar it did influence the latest political 
developments in the country.
(Lilit Harutiunian)
Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS