The audio clip which was posted on news websites on Sunday night purportedly revealed a conversation between Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Suren Papikian and Diana Gasparian, the mayor of Echmiadzin affiliated with Civil Contract.
None of them disputed the audio’s authenticity. It was not clear whether they spoke during the ongoing parliamentary election campaign or earlier this year.
“I have realized that for the sake of the state he [Pashinian] must go,” Gasparian can be heard telling Papikian. “Let the team choose someone else, let them choose you -- you are the most understandable person with the highest approval rating -- so that this situation is defused.”
“He got carried away,” she adds. “His psyche probably can’t cope anymore, his nerves have probably frayed. Let him retire and take rest. We can’t carry on like this.”
The 32-year-old mayor seems upset with Pashinian’s treatment of his political allies. “He is forgetting that there are people with values and principles here,” she says. “He can’t trample them underfoot every time because of not controlling his emotions.”
Papikian, who also manages Civil Contract’s election campaign, responds by telling Gasparian to “calm down” and “don’t do anything today.” He then promises to talk to Pashinian the next morning.
Papikian declined to comment on the leaked audio as he accompanied Pashinian on a campaign trip to Armenia’s southern Ararat province on Monday. The prime minister also refused to answer questions from journalists.
Lilit Makunts, who leads the ruling party’s group in Armenia’s outgoing parliament, dismissed the recording as a “very unimportant subject.” “We are focused on our campaign,” Makunts told reporters.
“We have not discussed that issue. I have no comment on the recording,” she said.
Campaigning in Ararat towns and villages, Pashinian continued to deliver fiery speeches and lambaste Armenia’s former leaders challenging him in the elections. He again brandished a hammer symbolizing a popular “steel mandate” which he says he needs to continue ruling Armenia with a more firm hand.
“With the steel mandate we will take out all rusty nails, including in Ararat,” Pashinian told supporters rallying in Masis, a small town just south of Yerevan.
Pashinian pledged to “purge” the state bureaucracy and wage “political vendettas” against local government officials supporting the Armenian opposition after launching his party’s election campaign last week.
Opposition figures have accused him of threatening his political opponents with violence and other abuses.