Nikol Pashinian strongly defended his and his government’s track record on Wednesday as he marked the first anniversary of his election as Armenia’s prime minister with another marathon news conference.
Pashinian presented a list of what he called 100 concrete achievements of his rule, which began after mass protests that brought down the former Armenian government. In particular, he claimed to have eliminated electoral fraud and “systemic” government corruption and established broader rule of rule in the country.
“As a result of my government’s activities, nobody is privileged before the law in Armenia and citizens’ political and civil rights are protected and fully exercised,” Pashinian told the news conference that lasted for more than five hours. “We have consistently carried out a separation of the judicial and executive branches and ensured judicial independence.”
Pashinian also insisted that his administration is already delivering on his repeated pledges to carry out an “economic revolution” that will significantly boost living standards in Armenia. He cited its efforts to improve the business environment and combat widespread tax evasion.
The government has collected 62 billion drams ($129 million) in additional revenues as a result of its yearlong crackdown on tax fraud, Pashinian said, adding that most of that money will be spent this year on road construction and other capital projects.
In Pashinian’s words, the new authorities in Yerevan have also recovered 32 billion drams ($66 million) worth of cash and other assets that had been “plundered” from the state by former officials and their relatives. He implied that this figure includes $30 million effectively confiscated from former President Serzh Sarkisian’s indicted brother Aleksandr.
Pashinian’s political opponents, notably Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), and other critics take a dim view of his tenure. They say that he has failed to improve the socioeconomic situation in the country.
“In my view, this past year has been a year of losses for Armenia, in terms of security, the economy and the public’s expectations,” the HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, claimed on Wednesday.
Sharmazanov argued that the Armenian economy grew faster in 2017 than in 2018. “[Pashinian] was talking about an investment boom, we don’t have an investment boom,” he. “He was talking about an economic miracle, a ‘magic wand’ and, later, an economic revolution and exponential growth, which we don’t have either.”
Commenting on such criticism, Pashinian again hit out at Sarkisian and other members of the former ruling regime. He said they stand no chance of ever returning to power because Armenians are well aware that they had enriched themselves and their families while in power.
The 43-year-old premier, who led last spring’s “velvet revolution,” also dismissed claims about his declining popularity. He said if general elections were held now his My Step bloc would fare even better than it did in the last polls held in December. My Step won 70 percent of the vote at the time.