Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said his Civil Contract party does not espouse any of the traditional political ideologies as it held on Sunday its first congress since coming to power one year ago.
“We are a party that has rejected ‘isms’ because hardened ideologies no longer exist in the contemporary world,” Pashinian told delegates of the congress. “In the political sense, we are not liberal, we are not centrist, we are not social democrat; we are a civil party.”
“What does this mean?” he said. “This means that we place ourselves beyond ideological standards and we are forming a new ideological plane which is based on four key pillars: statehood, citizenship, national identity and personality.”
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. Critics, notably the former ruling Republican Party, have accused it of lacking ideological clarity.
Civil Contract served as Pashinian’s core support base during the April-May 2018 “velvet revolution” which brought the 44-year-old former journalist to power. It is also the dominant force in a more broad-based My Step bloc which Pashinian formed following the revolution. The bloc won 70 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections held in December.
Despite being the party’s top leader, Pashinian has never headed it officially. Civil Contract stuck to this tradition at its weekend congress in Yerevan which elected the party’s new governing board. The board in turn appointed Minister for Local Government Suren Papikian as its chairman.
Among the 21 members of the board are parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, the Armenian ministers of education, health and transport as well as Pashinian’s chief of staff, Eduard Aghajanian.
Sasun Mikaelian, the ruling party’s chairman until now, unexpectedly failed to get elected to the new board. Papikian declined to comment on speculation that this was the result of a Civil Contract candidate’s failure to unseat the incumbent mayor of the town of Abovian in an election held earlier this month.
Romanos Petrosian, the governor of Armenia’s central Kotayk province encompassing Abovian, has openly complained that Mikaelian, who is influential in the area, failed to help the candidate during the mayoral race. Incidentally, Petrosian was elected to the board.
Mikaelian, 61, became in April the new chairman of the once powerful Yerkrapah Union of Armenian veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.