RFE/RL Armenian Report – 05/08/2019

                                        Wednesday, 

Pashinian Defends One-Year Track Record

        • Karlen Aslanian
        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian gives a press conference in Yerevan, 
May 8, 2019.

Nikol Pashinian strongly defended his and his government’s track record on 
Wednesday as he marked the first anniversary of his election as Armenia’s prime 
minister with another marathon news conference.

Pashinian presented a list of what he called 100 concrete achievements of his 
rule, which began after mass protests that brought down the former Armenian 
government. In particular, he claimed to have eliminated electoral fraud and 
“systemic” government corruption and established broader rule of rule in the 
country.

“As a result of my government’s activities, nobody is privileged before the law 
in Armenia and citizens’ political and civil rights are protected and fully 
exercised,” Pashinian told the news conference that lasted for more than five 
hours. “We have consistently carried out a separation of the judicial and 
executive branches and ensured judicial independence.”

Pashinian also insisted that his administration is already delivering on his 
repeated pledges to carry out an “economic revolution” that will significantly 
boost living standards in Armenia. He cited its efforts to improve the business 
environment and combat widespread tax evasion.

The government has collected 62 billion drams ($129 million) in additional 
revenues as a result of its yearlong crackdown on tax fraud, Pashinian said, 
adding that most of that money will be spent this year on road construction and 
other capital projects.


ARMENIA - Newly elected Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinian (L) greets 
supporters during a meeting in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia May 8, 2018

In Pashinian’s words, the new authorities in Yerevan have also recovered 32 
billion drams ($66 million) worth of cash and other assets that had been 
“plundered” from the state by former officials and their relatives. He implied 
that this figure includes $30 million effectively confiscated from former 
President Serzh Sarkisian’s indicted brother Aleksandr.

Pashinian’s political opponents, notably Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), 
and other critics take a dim view of his tenure. They say that he has failed to 
improve the socioeconomic situation in the country.

“In my view, this past year has been a year of losses for Armenia, in terms of 
security, the economy and the public’s expectations,” the HHK spokesman, Eduard 
Sharmazanov, claimed on Wednesday.

Sharmazanov argued that the Armenian economy grew faster in 2017 than in 2018. 
“[Pashinian] was talking about an investment boom, we don’t have an investment 
boom,” he. “He was talking about an economic miracle, a ‘magic wand’ and, 
later, an economic revolution and exponential growth, which we don’t have 
either.”

Commenting on such criticism, Pashinian again hit out at Sarkisian and other 
members of the former ruling regime. He said they stand no chance of ever 
returning to power because Armenians are well aware that they had enriched 
themselves and their families while in power.

The 43-year-old premier, who led last spring’s “velvet revolution,” also 
dismissed claims about his declining popularity. He said if general elections 
were held now his My Step bloc would fare even better than it did in the last 
polls held in December. My Step won 70 percent of the vote at the time.



Kocharian Sees ‘Powerful’ Opposition Emerging In Armenia


Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian gives an interview to the Russian 
NTV channel, Yerevan, 28Aug2018.

Armenia’s imprisoned former President Robert Kocharian has predicted the 
emergence of a new and “powerful” opposition force in the country and said he 
will be involved in it.

In written comments to the Reuters news agency published on Wednesday, 
Kocharian also reiterated that grave criminal charges leveled against him are 
politically motivated.

“This process will certainly lead to the creation of a powerful political force 
capable of challenging the authorities very soon,” he said, writing from a 
detention center in Yerevan where he is being held.

Asked if he will be personally involved in the emerging opposition, he replied: 
“Yes, of course.” But he did not give details about what form that involvement 
could take.

Kocharian, who served as president from 1998-2008, announced his return to 
active politics shortly after spending about a month in jail last summer. He 
was again arrested in December.

Kocharian and two retired army generals will go on trial soon on charges of 
overthrowing the constitutional order in the wake of a disputed presidential 
election held in February 2008. They are specifically accused of using the 
armed forces against opposition supporters that protested against alleged vote 
rigging.

Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed in street clashes that 
broke out in Yerevan late on March 1, 2008. Kocharian declared a state of 
emergency in the Armenian capital on that night. He completed his second 
presidential term and handed over power to Serzh Sarkisian, the official 
election winner and his preferred successor, in April 2008.


Armenia - A man walks past burned cars on a street in Yerevan where security 
forces clashed with opposition protesters, 2 March 2008.

Kocharian again defended the decisions he took during the 2008 protests. “Order 
was restored only after the introduction of the state of emergency and thanks 
to it,” he said. “Not doing that would have meant official inaction on the part 
of the president.”

Sarkisian resigned in April 2018 amid mass protests against his attempt to 
extend his decade-long rule. The protest leader, Nikol Pashinian, was elected 
prime minister in May.

Looking back at the peaceful protests, Kocharian said they were caused by 
“accumulated discontent in the society and desire for change”, but were not a 
revolution.

“I would not call it a revolution as fundamentally nothing has changed in the 
country, except for the appearance of a big share of aggression in the society, 
and populism and dilettantism in the leadership,” he said in written answers to 
questions Reuters had sent to him.

Critics have accused the 64-year-old ex-president and his former allies of 
cracking down on democracy, corruption and mismanagement during their time in 
power. They have denied those allegations.



Pay Rise For Yerevan Mayor, Aides Shelved

        • Narine Ghalechian

Armenia - Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutian arrives for a session of the city 
council, May 8, 2019.

Yerevan’s Mayor Hayk Marutian shelved on Wednesday his controversial plans to 
sharply raise his and his top subordinates’ salaries.

Under a bill drafted by his office, Marutian’s monthly salary would rise from 
575,000 drams to 1.2 million drams ($2,500). It calls for similarly drastic pay 
rises for his deputies and other high-ranking members of the mayor’s staff. A 
much larger number of other, lower and mid-ranking municipal workers would have 
their salaries raised by only around 30 percent.

Citing this disparity, the two opposition groups represented in the city 
council were quick to reject the bill after it was made public last week. Some 
of the council members representing the ruling My Step alliance also strongly 
objected to it at a meeting with Marutian held on Monday.

Marutian defended his plans, saying that they are primarily aimed at benefiting 
1,700 or so people working for the municipal administration. He said that he 
would have liked to keep his own salary unchanged but is legally not allowed to 
do that. He insisted that the uneven wage increases are also mandated by 
Armenian law.

Nevertheless, the well-to-do former TV comedian decided to remove the 
controversial bill from the agenda of a council session which was due to debate 
and vote on it.

“I want everyone to be convinced that this is the kind of document which we 
want to have … We will widely discuss it, inform our population and then come 
back to this auditorium,” he told the council controlled by My Step.

Davit Khazhakian, a leader of the opposition Luys bloc, again accused Marutian 
of mismanagement and said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is also responsible 
for it. Khazhakian singled out a worsening situation with garbage collection in 
Yerevan.

The 42-year-old mayor rejected the “populist” claims, saying that he needs more 
time to address “a problem that hadn’t been solved for 20 years.”

Marutian further claimed that the Yerevan municipality was “Armenia’s most 
corrupt agency” when he took over it in October as a result of My Step’s 
victory in snap municipal elections. “I can tell you for sure that systemic 
corruption in the mayor’s office does not exist anymore,” he declared.



Judges Censured For Not Dealing With Kocharian Case

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Armenia -- A sign at the entrance to the Supreme Judicial Council.

A state body overseeing the Armenian judiciary on Wednesday took disciplinary 
action against two judges who recently refused to deal with the high-profile 
criminal case against former President Robert Kocharian.

The judges of a district court in Yerevan, Nelly Baghdasarian and Harutiun 
Manukian, were assigned to rule on petitions regarding Kocharian pre-trial 
arrest which had been filed by his lawyers and prosecutors. They both decided 
to recuse themselves from the case. Baghdasarian attributed her decision to 
questions about her impartiality raised by the prosecution, while Manukian 
cited health reasons.

The Supreme Judicial Council sanctioned them at the request of Armenia’s 
General Assembly of Judges. It accused Baghdasarian of serious misconduct and 
formally reprimanded her. For his part, Manukian received a more lenient 
“warning.”

Gevorg Danielian, a member of the council, said neither judge had “sufficient 
grounds” to avoid taking up the case.

Kocharian stands accused of “overthrowing the constitutional order” in the wake 
of a disputed 2008 presidential election. He and two retired Armenian army 
generals are due to go on trial soon. They deny the charges as politically 
motivated.

Another Yerevan judge, Vartan Grigorian, refused to preside over the trial last 
week, citing a conflict of interest. He argued that he used to work for one of 
Kocharian’s lawyers, Ruben Sahakian.

Danielian dismissed suggestions that Armenian judges are reluctant to deal with 
the politically sensitive case. “The behavior of two or three judges is not 
enough to express an opinion about the entire judicial system,” he told 
reporters.



Press Review



“Zhamanak” says that Nikol Pashinian has had achievements and made mistakes 
since becoming Armenia’s prime minister one year ago. The paper says those 
mistakes were not intentional. “The main achievement is that after a nearly 
20-year hiatus we again have a totally legitimate government in Armenia as a 
result of the velvet revolution,” it says. “A government which was elected by 
the will of the people, in free and fair elections, and is now accountable to 
the people.” The lack of such legitimacy was the root cause of the country’s 
problems, according to the paper.

“Aravot” says that quite a few Armenians believe that “little has changed in 
the past year.” “But I am convinced that several important things have changed 
in the positive sense,” writes the newspaper editor, Aram Abrahamian. In 
particular, he says, unlike his predecessors, Pashinian is backed and trusted 
by the majority of people, and the current Armenian parliament was formed in 
free and fair elections. “As a consequences of these two changes, the public’s 
and media’s ability to hold the authorities in check have increased,” continues 
Abrahamian. “This represents a huge potential … for change. But for various 
reasons this potential is being used insufficiently.”

“Zhamanak” reports that a new judge has been assigned to preside over the trial 
of former President Robert Kocharian after one of his colleagues decided to 
recuse himself from the high-profile case. The paper highly critical of 
Kocharian wonders if the judge, Davit Grigorian, will “dare” to take up the 
case. It says that many judges appointed during Kocharian’s and Serzh 
Sarkisian’s rule are suffering from a “psychological complex” and hopes that 
the upcoming trial will contribute to judicial independence in the country.

(Lilit Harutiunian)


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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