Armenia’s leading opposition groups represented in parliament rejected the government’s new five-year program on Tuesday, dismissing its pledges to speed up economic development, tackle corruption and strengthen the rule of law.
Lawmakers from the four main minority factions in the National Assembly made clear that they will refuse to give Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s newly appointed cabinet a vote of confidence.
But with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and its junior coalition partner, Orinats Yerkir, holding the majority of parliament seats, the government will almost certainly succeed in pushing the program through the assembly.
The document presented by Sarkisian on Monday commits the government to ensuring continued economic growth, reducing poverty and unemployment and implementing other reforms.
Opposition lawmakers brushed aside these pledges, saying that living standards in the country have fallen during President Serzh Sarkisian’s five-year rule. They also questioned the Sarkisian administration’s stated commitment to reforms.
Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said the authorities are disinterested in genuine political and economic reforms because those would put at risk their grip on power. “As time goes by, the previous governments, which deserved criticism, look increasingly clean against the background of you,” he told government members present in the chamber.
“To think that Tigran Sarkisian’s government can fight against corruption and oligarchy means to think that somebody can fight against their employer. This government is employed by the oligarchy and the corrupt system,” charged Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken lawmaker nominally representing the Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Aram Manukian, another HAK parliamentarian, accused Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet of failing to honor its previous pledges to break up de facto economic monopolies and end tax evasion by the rich. “You had promised to bring oligarchs into the tax field,” he said. “You have not fulfilled that promise. Taxes not paid by oligarchs exceed your budget.”
“We can’t even see your desire to reduce corruption What should we trust you for?” added Manukian.
Aleksandr Arzumanian, a prominent opposition figure currently not affiliated with any party, scoffed at Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s pledge to carry out a “revolution” in the people’s mindsets that will create “a law-abiding environment” in Armenia.
“The authorities are not missionaries that have come from faraway places to enlighten savage tribes,” declared Arzumanian. “You should start from yourself. The mentality must first change within the state governance system. Only after that can we expect a change in public attitudes.”
Arzumanian also protested against the government program’s reference to “corruption rooted in the society.” “Corruption does not originate from the society,” he said. “It originates from the state governance system and is imposed on the society.”