Senior representatives of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) have reacted furiously to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s latest speech, accusing him of stifling dissent, blackmailing the Armenian parliament and seeking to control the judiciary.
Pashinian marked his first 100 days in office on Friday with a massive rally in Yerevan during which he defended his government’s track record and declared the establishment of the kind of “people’s direct rule” that had existed in ancient Greece. He claimed that some Armenian judges are still acting on orders issued by members of Sarkisian’s political team, warning them not to “mess with the people.”
The premier also announced plans to push through the parliament constitutional amendments that would facilitate the conduct of fresh parliamentary elections. He told his supporters to be ready to press lawmakers to enact those amendments.
Reacting to the speech, the chief HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, described Pashinian as a “demagogue” who uses threats and blackmail to consolidate his power. “Pashinian threatened judges and opponents, blatantly violated the presumption of innocence, nullified state institutions and declared the street the only decision-making [state] body,” he said in a weekend statement.
“Don’t you dare threaten state institutions and parliamentarians and other citizens who have different views. Don’t you dare trample the law and the state underfoot,” warned Sharmazanov, who is also a deputy parliament speaker. He said Pashinian again proved that he is unfit to govern Armenia.
“In the past 100 days you have not become a prime minister after all. Not even a mediocre one,” Armen Ashotian, another senior HHK figure, charged, appealing to Pashinian.
In a Facebook post, Ashotian claimed that Pashinian’s fiery speech added a fresh “dose of authoritarianism” to his “unsuccessful” rule. “The prime minister is trying to replace laws, courts, government agencies and the business environment with himself,” he said.
The HHK majority in the Armenian parliament reluctantly agreed to help Pashinian become prime minister on May 8 after weeks of mass protests that forced Sarkisian to resign. The former ruling party lost that majority in the following weeks due to defections from its ranks. But it still has the largest faction in the National Assembly.
The HHK is increasingly critical of Pashinian’s government, even though Sarkisian continues to keep a low profile. In particular, it has strongly condemned the arrest late last month of former President Robert Kocharian on charges stemming from the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
A senior member of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, Lena Nazarian, insisted later on Saturday that the new government is not trying to set up any unconstitutional bodies in the country. She said it is only seeking to make it easier for Armenians to vote in national and local referendums and elect a new, more legitimate parliament.
Pashinian declared on Friday that crowds gathering in Yerevan’s central Republic Square must now be regarded as the “supreme body of the people’s rule.” Armenia, he said, is thus replicating ancient Greece.
Throughout Sarkisian’s decade-long rule, the HHK itself faced opposition allegations that it rigs elections, restricts human and civil rights and prevents judicial independence.