Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on Thursday accused vocal opponents of his government’s controversial pension reform of humiliating state officials and ordered law-enforcement bodies to take “drastic” measures against them.
Abrahamian referred to members of the Dem Em (I’m Against) pressure group who hurled coins at government ministers and pro-government lawmakers outside the parliament building in Yerevan last week. Dozens of Dem Em activists rallied there as the National Assembly debated and approved a government proposal to relaunch the unpopular reform.
“I find unacceptable attempts to humiliate and pressurize government representatives with populist methods such as throwing coins at ministers and parliament deputies,” Abrahamian said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting. “Don’t get me wrong. I not only stand for freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly but will also protect those rights till the end.
“But those freedoms end the moment they start infringing on the rights of other people. In such cases, there is no longer freedom, there is anarchy. I’m not going tolerate that.”
Abrahamian instructed the Armenian police and the Justice Ministry to “propose legislative or organizational solutions” that would preclude such incidents in the future. “If necessary, invite your European partners, look into their experience, and hold trainings,” he said. “But make sure that bodies maintaining public order protect constitutional freedoms and at the same time drastically prevent any manifestation of lawlessness.”
The premier did not specify what kind of sanctions must be taken against civic activists “humiliating” the government.
The Dem Em protesters argued that the government is reviving a reform that was declared unconstitutional by Armenia’s Constitutional Court as recently as in April. A corresponding bill approved by the parliament at the weekend essentially changed the name of additional social security contributions to be collected from workers born after 1973. The only substantive change made by the government is a three-year reprieve granted to employees of private firms.