Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party is careful not to admit a large number of new members even though thousands of Armenians are seeking to join it, a senior party member said on Tuesday.
Lena Nazarian said Civil Contract has received 9,000 membership applications since Pashinian swept to power in May on a wave of mass protests that brought down Armenia’s former government. “We have still not accepted those applications,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Nazarian, who is also a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, suggested that many of the applicants have ulterior motives. “They think that it would give them some advantages in terms of getting government jobs or some other privileges,” she said. “That is not possible. I don’t think that we will admit all of those people who have submitted membership applications.”
Nazarian stressed that Civil Contract will thus not follow the example of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which had accumulated vast financial and administrative resources during its long presence in government.
The HHK heavily relied on those resources to win just about every major Armenian election held before Sarkisian’s dramatic resignation in April 2018. It had hundreds of thousands of nominal members, many of them public sector employees, government-linked entrepreneurs and people working for them. Few of them showed support for Sarkisian during the Pashinian-led “velvet revolution.”
The HHK failed to clear the 5 percent vote threshold to enter the parliament in snap general elections held in December.
“We don’t want to go down that path,” said Nazarian, who actively participated in the revolution. “We don’t want to admit people who are accustomed to being in a ruling party.”
“We want to recruit only ideological people for the party,” she added. “People who understand what the party stands for and want to join the state system because they have skills, knowledge and experience and are willing to be of use or just want to be in the party, finance it and oversee it.”
Pashinian set up Civil Contract in 2013 after splitting from former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress. It operated as a non-governmental organization mostly uniting young civic activists before becoming a full-fledged political party in 2015.