RFE/RL Armenian Report – 03/21/2019

                                        Thursday, 

Ter-Petrosian Party Warns Government Over Economic Policies


Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian (L) and Nikol Pashinian greet supporters 
in Yerevan's Liberty Square, 31 May 2011.

The extra-parliamentary Armenian National Congress (HAK) party led by 
ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian has called on the government to abandon 
changes that it claims contradict the principles of the declared economic 
policy.

In a statement disseminated on Wednesday the HAK, which had earlier voiced 
political support for the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, 
referred to a number of protests by representatives of small and medium-sized 
businesses, who it said raise legitimate demands to the authorities.

The HAK also cited the package of amendments to the tax legislation that was 
approved by the government on March 7 in which “separate bills hit the 
activities of small and medium-sized enterprises and affect the policy of 
promoting free enterprise.”

The party also addressed controversial amendments planned in the law on state 
duty, which envisage a significant increase in the rates of payments for 
licenses in the financial and credit sphere and which has caused discontent and 
protests among representatives of the sector.

In this connection, the HAK expressed concerns over risks to market 
liberalization, promotion of free economic competition and improvement of the 
business environment.

It said that the implementation of changes in the amount of annual payments for 
the organization of foreign currency trading and pawnshops by 60 times and the 
increase of 6 times for lending organizations will inevitably result in 
closures of most of over 220 individual foreign exchange buying and selling 
companies and reduction of jobs, as well as the elimination of the already 
weakened competition in the currency market. On the other hand, the party said, 
it will result in the closures of most pawnshops and serious obstacles to the 
activities of lending organizations that will eventually lead to more costly 
services and concentration of the lending market.

Dozens of workers of exchange offices and pawnshops have held protests in front 
of the government offices in recent weeks demanding revision of the policies.

In its statement the HAK also raised concerns over policies in relation to 
small and medium-sized enterprises, saying that “it is perplexing that 
principles of economic policies are subordinated to fiscal goals.”

The HAK suggests that before carrying out amendments in relevant laws the 
government should start discussions with all associations representing the 
financial and credit sector and other stakeholders.




Oversight Body Chief Found In Breach Of Ethics Rules

        • Ruzanna Stepanian
        • Sargis Harutyunyan

Davit Sanasarian, head of the State Oversight Service, Yerevan, Armenia, 21 
March, 2019

The Ethics Committee for High-Ranking Officials has found that the head of a 
supervisory body subordinate to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has violated 
rules of ethics set out in Armenia’s law on public service.

In a statement this week the Committee said that by his activities Davit 
Sanasarian, the head of the State Oversight Service, “did not contribute to the 
credibility of and respect towards his office and the body he represents.”

The Committee conducted a probe based on the application submitted by Yerevan 
State University Rector Aram Simonian, who insisted that Sanasarian made public 
statements that resulted in grave breaches of ethics rules.

Sanasarian earlier stated that misappropriations worth over 800 million drams 
(about $1.6 million) had been found at the university headed by Simonian.

A criminal case was launched last year in connection with alleged 
misappropriations.

Simonian has been under pressure to resign since the change of government last 
year. He claims he is targeted because of his political affiliation as a member 
of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia.

The Ethics Committee for High-Ranking Officials found that Sanasarian’s public 
statement and social media post “can be reasonably perceived and interpreted as 
a display of biased attitude and demonstration of force.”

State Oversight Service head Sanasarian told reporters after a government 
session on Thursday that he does not accept the Ethics Committee’s ruling and 
will appeal it in court.

“This probe should not have been launched in the first place, and secondly, 
there are no grounds for such a ruling,” he said.




Tsarukian’s Bodyguard Goes On Trial For Assault

        • Narine Ghalechian

At the trial of Prosperous Armenia Party lawmaker Eduard Babayan, 

A parliament deputy who was until recently Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) 
leader Gagik Tsarukian’s chief bodyguard went on trial on Thursday on charges 
of violent assault.

Eduard Babayan was arrested in July last year hours after a 50-year-old man in 
Yerevan was hospitalized with serious injuries. The latter claimed to have been 
beaten up at a compound of Armenia’s National Olympic Committee headed by 
Tsarukian. He said he was hit by Tsarukian before being repeatedly kicked and 
punched by Babayan and another person.

Both Tsarukian and Babayan strongly denied the allegation. The burly bodyguard 
was charged even though his alleged victim, Vyacheslav Harutiunian, later 
retracted his incriminating testimony.

Babayan was freed on bail in August. He was elected to the Armenian parliament 
on the BHK ticket in December.

At the beginning of the trial Harutiunian again said that he did not consider 
himself to be a victim in the case.

And Babayan again pleaded not guilty. “I wasn’t involved in any beating. I was 
not in that room. I was upstairs together with Tsarukian,” he said.

During the break in the court hearing Harutiunian told RFE/RL’s Armenian 
Service that Babayan did not beat him. “I am on very good terms with him… Mr. 
Tsarukian and Eduard Babayan were not physically present [during the incident]. 
We had no argument, we are good friends,” said Harutiunian, adding that he 
received his injuries after slipping and falling down.

One of the witnesses in the case, a police officer who served at the National 
Olympic Committee compound, said that he did not see Babayan at that day 
despite his preliminary testimony read out by the prosecuting attorney in which 
he said that he saw Tsarukian enter the building together with his bodyguard.

Armenian media have repeatedly implicated Tsarukian’s bodyguards -- and Babayan 
in particular -- in violence, including against opponents of former 
governments, in the past. The BHK leader, who is also one of the country’s 
richest men, always denied those claims.

In a police video released in July, Babayan’s alleged victim said that he was 
attacked after imploring Tsarukian to help ensure that Armenian law-enforcement 
authorities withdraw an international arrest warrant issued for his son accused 
of draft evasion.

The young man is a boxer and Russian national who was told to serve in 
Armenia’s armed forces after receiving Armenian citizenship in order to compete 
for the South Caucasus country in international tournaments.




Armenian Female Chess Player Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination, Sues Federation

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenian woman grandmaster Lilit Galojan

International woman grandmaster Lilit Galojan has filed a lawsuit against the 
Armenian Chess Federation, claiming that she was illegally left out of the 
national team because of her recent pregnancy.

The 35-year-old player, who has won several national titles and medals in 
international competitions during her chess career, also believes her political 
views during last year’s revolution may also have influenced the decision of 
the Federation that is headed by former President Serzh Sarkisian.

Galojan, who for years was a member of Armenia’s national team and participated 
in world and European championships and chess Olympiads, claims that the order 
of the composition of the squad was changed in violation of the Federation’s 
regulations. In particular, according to her, the meeting of the Federation’s 
Board on December 17, 2017 could not be considered legitimate as the presence 
of two thirds of the staff was not ensured and the protocol of the meeting 
signed by Sarkisian was forged.

“That could not be called a board meeting. It was just some meeting at which 
the head of the Federation was present. Even if he was the president of 
Armenia, it does not allow the Federation to break its own regulations just 
because a high-ranking official was present there,” the grandmaster said.

Galojan further insisted that the protocol falsely presented her as a 
participant of the meeting while she did not attend it. “It does not have a 
word about any change in the regulations,” she said, referring to provisions 
that led to her exclusion from the team.

The final composition of the squad was formed on May 2, 2018, when stormy 
political developments were taking place in Armenia. Galojan said she did not 
exclude that one of the reasons for the decision not to include her in the team 
was her and her family’s political views as during the days of anti-government 
protests Galojan did not join the members of the Armenian chess team who voiced 
their support for Sarkisian, congratulated him on his election as prime 
minister and described the movement led by then opposition leader Nikol 
Pashinian as unacceptable.

“I made some posts on Facebook after being inspired by the revolution,” Galojan 
said.

Secretary-general of the Armenian Chess Federation Mikayel Andreasian described 
Galojan’s accusations as slander. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the 
grandmaster had been offered to take part in an international tournament, for 
which the Federation would cover all expenses, even though it wasn’t its 
obligation. However, he said, because Galojan was pregnant at that time, she 
refused to participate in the tournament and there was no way to determine 
whether by the level of her preparedness she was qualified to be included in 
the national team or not. And the order of forming the team was changed so as 
to make it more competitive, said the Federation official, ruling out any 
illegality in the process.

“We had kept all members of the board informed of the decisions and they agreed 
to vote for them in absentia,” Andreasian explained.

Galojan has also presented financial claims to the Federation and wants to be 
paid for the time she was not on the team as well as receive financial 
compensation for missing an international tournament. The Federation official, 
however, explained that they did not pay salaries to national team players and 
that the payments they receive constitute “social assistance” given at the 
Federation’s discretion.

“For 15 years Galojan was on the team. The Federation met every need that she 
had during that time,” Andreasian said.

Despite stepping down as prime minister in April 2018, Sarkisian remains head 
of the Chess Federation and according to the regulations can lead this body 
until 2022.




Press Review



“Zhamanak” suggests that the former ruling system cannot be associated even 
with the concept of being opposition as “it affects the prospect of the 
formation of a new opposition in Armenia.” “The former ruling system cannot be 
considered opposition and the reason is not even that a considerable part of 
that system, including the one possessing media resources, declared itself 
outside the political status, the underlying reason is that the former ruling 
system has put the public outside the political status, and even the public 
groups dissatisfied with the new government in this sense differentiate their 
attitude towards their issues and the former ruling system,” the paper says.

“Zhoghovurd” writes: “Head of the State Oversight Service Davit Sanasarian has 
violated rules of ethics set out under article 28 of the Law on Public Service 
by not contributing to “the credibility of and respect towards his office and 
the body he represents.” This conclusion has been made by the Ethics Committee 
for High-Ranking Officials within the framework of a probe initiated on the 
basis of an application of Yerevan State University Rector Aram Simonian. 
What’s interesting is that still on February 19 Armenian Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian made a remarkable statement in the National Assembly about former 
activists who occupy state posts today. He said that “many think that if in the 
past the platforms of their activities were Facebook accounts it is also so now 
and by posting harsh statements they can go and check some organizations 
without thinking that this posted statement can be a basis for litigation.”… 
Many think that Sanasarian was one of the addressees of these remarks.”

Lragir.am queries whether it is realistic that Nagorno-Karabakh can return to 
the table of negotiations with Azerbaijan. “Different people say that there is 
no possibility for that and that in the foreseeable future Nagorno-Karabakh 
cannot be a negotiating party. Azerbaijan and the mediators, they say, will not 
accept that. And this circumstance brings about another question – in forming 
its agenda does the State have to be guided by goals that have guaranteed ways 
of achievement? Or should they be formed not based on the guaranteed result but 
rather on necessity, state interest, security and strategic prospect? After 
all, if it is necessary to formulate only objectives with guaranteed results, 
it diminishes the significance and function of the State altogether,” the 
online publication writes.

(Lilit Harutiunian)

 
Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2019 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
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