Opposition lawmakers accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Wednesday of showing contempt for their criticism of his government’s five-year policy program debated by the Armenian parliament.
Pashinian responded sarcastically to some of the tough questions asked during the debate which began on Tuesday. He seemed particularly annoyed by deputies representing the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), his erstwhile ally.
One of them, Arkady Khachatrian, challenged Pashinian to explain what critics see as a lack of socioeconomic targets and other details in the 70-page program.
“Frankly, when I hear some questions and speeches from your faction I recall that famous joke about a lion,” replied the prime minister.
“The context of your questions makes me suspect that you are afraid of the program’s implementation, rather than its non-implementation,” he said after telling the joke on the parliament floor. “If you are afraid of that, then you do the right thing.”
Other LHK deputies hit back at Pashinian. “Please do not scold the opposition because you, Mr. Prime Minister, are not the opposition politician Nikol Pashinian anymore and the opposition sitting here is not the former corrupt government,” one of them, Ani Samsonian, said.
Another LHK parliamentarian, Gevorg Gorgisian, also denounced Pashinian’s “answers spiced up with sarcasm, contempt and complaints.”“The government’s speeches and program are leaving us with the impression that everything is done to dodge responsibility and blame its future failures on the people,” charged Gorgisian. “The [former ruling] Republicans were doing the same.”
Gevorg Petrosian, a senior lawmaker from the other parliamentary opposition force, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), also rebuked Pashinian.
“Governments and authorities that don’t care about the voice of the opposition eventually fail,” said Petrosian. “This is the shortest path to their destruction. And considering your answers given yesterday and today … I’m starting to become a bit skeptical. Will you take anything said by the opposition into account or not?”
BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian also criticized the program on Tuesday, saying that it is too vague. “We can’t vote for it unless it is amended,” he told reporters.
Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, a top Pashinian ally, assured the opposition minority in the National Assembly that the government is open to discussing their proposals on its action plan. He said they can be submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian.
The program says that the Armenian economy will grow by at least 5 percent annually thanks to government efforts to improve the business environment, spur exports and attract more foreign investment. It promises “substantial” decreases in poverty and unemployment.
Speaking in the parliament on Wednesday, Pashinian also touted his government’s efforts to create a level playing field for all businesses and its plans to cut taxes. He said that will attract greater investments in the Armenian economy. He also reaffirmed his pledges to eliminate government corruption in the country.