Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian lashed out on Thursday at his political opponents accusing him of stifling dissent, mishandling the coronavirus crisis and failing to address its socioeconomic consequences.
Pashinian said that they stand no chance of coming to power despite exploiting the pandemic for political aims.
“The political bacteria think that they have got a chance to revive themselves,” he said, speaking in the Armenian parliament. “Now they are talking of famine, social revolts … You should be afraid of that social revolt because if it happens we have nothing to become victims of a social revolt.
“It’s your illegally built mansions and Bentleys that will first and foremost become victims of a social revolt. Do you want a social revolt? Provoke a social revolt. We’ll see where you will end up as a result of that social revolt.”
Pashinian went on to predict that only those political forces that “unequivocally support the values” of the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” will be represented in Armenia’s next parliament, which is due to be elected in 2023.
Although the premier did not name anyone, Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the main opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), was clearly one of the targets of his harsh criticism.
The parliament controlled by Pashinian’s My Step bloc last week allowed law-enforcement authorities to arrest and prosecute Tsarukian on vote buying charges rejected by him and his party as politically motivated. BHK lawmakers have seen boycotted parliament sessions in protest.
Pashinian defended the indictment of Tsarukian, who called for the Armenian government’s resignation earlier in June. He also said that vote buying by the BHK is a widely known fact.
A senior BHK member, Mikael Melkumian, hit back at Pashinian later in the day, repeating Tsarukian’s claims that the government has failed “in all spheres.” “Who is responsible for the [coronavirus-related] deaths of our fellow citizens: the opposition or the authorities?” Melkumian added in a Facebook post.
In his speech, Pashinian also rounded on Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law also prosecuted on corruption charges. Minasian has repeatedly alleged in recent weeks that the premier and his relatives themselves are illegally enriching themselves.
“Since they want to carry out a revolution they want to portray me through ‘free’ media as Serzh Sarkisian … as a disgusting figure like them,” stated Pashinian.
“There must be no doubt that we will subject that corrupt system, all of them in a single basket, to capitulation because there is only one thing behind us, on our minds and in our hearts: the truth,” he added.