Pashinian held a number of meetings and public rallies in different rural communities as part of his Saturday trip to Armenia’s western Aragatsotn province.
Addressing scores of his supporters just two days after announcing that early parliamentary elections in Armenia will be held on June 20, Pashinian raised a number of issues that observers say may become part of the future campaign, including his vision of the country’s relations with the neighbors in the region after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In his public remarks Pashinian also slammed his political opponents, including former presidents Levon Ter-Petrosian and Serzh Sarkisian.
Critics also claim that as the incumbent prime minister, Pashinian has been using administrative resources, including services of local officials, to organize such meetings with the public.
Nazeli Baghdasarian, a member of the pro-Pashinian My Step alliance in parliament, countered that the prime minister has held similar rallies also before.
“During his entire time in office as prime minister, Pashinian has held similar meetings in different communities. He also had a similar meeting in another region the previous weekend, which was not covered by media,” she said.
Baghdasarian argued that if holding rallies is regarded as an early campaign, then the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement, which has been holding rallies in Yerevan and in provinces to demand Pashinian’s resignation, has been campaigning for months.
Artur Khachatrian, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which is part of the Homeland Salvation Movement that comprises over a dozen political parties and groups, meanwhile, described Pashinian’s rallies as “electioneering” accompanied with the heavy use of administrative resources.
“I do not pay taxes for Pashinian to gather hundreds of police officers around him or deploy thousands of police officers to close a town. He is using the administrative lever and is doing something that he is not supposed to be doing,” Khachatrian charged.
Naira Zohrabian, a member of the opposition Prosperous Armenia faction in parliament, also sees Pashinian’s recent meetings with the public as an early start of an election campaign. “I definitely agree with the assessments that Pashinian uses administrative resources and is campaigning, but, frankly, I am surprised that human rights activists, politicians, political analysts, media continue to be surprised by this. He [Pashinian] will go to any length to retain his power,” she said.
My Step’s Baghdasarian said, however, that My Step has not unveiled its official election platform and that otherwise the current election laws do not regard meetings of politicians with members of the public as an election campaign.