In what amounted to a vote of confidence, the Armenian parliament approved the government’s new five-year plan of actions on Thursday after three days of heating debates between its pro-government majority and opposition factions.
The National Assembly voted by 76 to 41 to back the policy program submitted by President Serzh Sarkisian’s new bust mostly unchanged cabinet. The document commits the government to ensuring continued economic growth, reducing poverty and unemployment and implementing other reforms.
The program was harshly criticized by opposition lawmakers during the debates. They said living standards in Armenia have fallen during Sarkisian’s five-year rule and questioned the authorities’ stated commitment to reforms.
The opposition criticism prompted angry rebuttals from ministers and deputies representing Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, dismissed it as meaningless, saying that the ruling party has enough seats to push the program through the parliament.
“You can vote against, but at least don’t be mean,” Sahakian said, referring to his opposition colleagues. “If you want to use venom, use the venom of bees.”
Sahakian was particularly scathing about the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), calling the opposition party led by former Levon Ter-Petrosian political “zeros.”
Levon Zurabian, the leader of the HAK’s 7-strong parliamentary faction, lambasted the government in a speech that preceded the vote. “If you dare to seek the parliament’s vote of confidence after so many failings and crimes, then we think that you will get the answer not from us but from the people of Armenia,” he said.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian hit back, saying that he “felt Levon Zurabian’s statements about government cynicism and impudence and impunity on my skin” when he was in opposition to the Ter-Petrosian government in the early 1990s. He said the current government is ready to consider alternative proposals from the opposition despite its being “fragmented, small and weak.”
“The main issue in our country is not regime change but a vision for the future, beliefs and the will,” added the premier. “Those who have a vision for the future, beliefs and the will, will be in power in the Republic of Armenia.”