Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has offered his apology to a 34-year-old man whom he snubbed during a recent trip to the Lori province where he also campaigned ahead of next month’s constitutional referendum.
Addressing a rally in Sisian in Armenia’s southern province of Syunik on Wednesday, Pashinian referred to his March 7 conversation with Kurtan village resident Mekhak Arakelian, who had approached him and asked for assistance in improving his housing conditions.
Pashinian then told the man: “You are a healthy person and you should solve your housing problems yourself. You should work and solve this problem. I am sorry to say this, but it is also a matter of dignity. Is it right for one healthy man to be asking another healthy man to solve his housing and livelihood problems? Get a job and solve your family’s problems.”
Earlier this week one of the local news sites published a story about Arakelian, a father of two who has multiple health problems and has lived in dire conditions in a makeshift house after losing his ancestral home in a 1988 devastating earthquake.
The man speaking humbly about his plight admitted that approaching Pashinian was an embarrassing experience for him. “He beat me. He said what he was going to say and I couldn’t say anything back.”
“I wish I had the health to have a job and maintain my family,” Arakelian added.
Pashinian acknowledged on Wednesday having made a misjudgment.
“I admit two mistakes that I made. First, I overestimated my ability to assess a person’s health condition by his appearance. And secondly, I underestimated the circumstance that a citizen may get overwhelmed when talking to the prime minister and may fail to speak about his health problems. I want to apologize to Mekhak [Arakelian] and all citizens of Armenia for these two mistakes,” the prime minister said, drawing applause from the rally crowd.
Arakelian later told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that he accepted Pashinian’s apology. “I bear no grudge against him,” he said.
Also on Wednesday pro-government lawmaker Sipan Pashinian, who is the prime minister’s cousin, visited Arakelian and told him that after watching the video some people, including in the Diaspora, expressed their readiness to assist his family. He did not specify what kind of assistance would be provided to the Arakelians lest it should be viewed as a voter incentive in the ongoing referendum campaign.