The prosecutor, Karen Bisharian, defended Pashinian’s fiery campaign rhetoric during ongoing Constitutional Court hearings on opposition appeals against official results of the June 20 elections that gave victory to the ruling Civil Contract party.
The Hayastan bloc, one of the four opposition groups that lodged the appeals, listed Pashinian’s “hate speech” and “calls for violence” among violations which it says seriously affected the election outcome. The bloc’s representatives argued, in particular, that Pashinian brandished a hammer during campaign rallies held across the country.
Bisharian countered that the premier used the hammer only as a metaphor for a “dictatorship of the law” promised by him on the campaign trail.
“Your Honor, I think it is clear that the context of these words was not about violence,” he told the Constitutional Court judges. “Perhaps it was about coercion … but not every coercion is violence.”
A Hayastan lawyer, Aram Vardevanian, cited Pashinian’s furious remarks addressed to the management of Armenia’s largest mining company accused by the prime minister of not allowing its workers to attend his rally held in the nearby town of Kajaran.
“The Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC), you have crossed the red line, which means that this blue hammer will first smash your heads. Whatever you say, your fate is sealed, you just quietly wait for your verdict,” declared Pashinian.
Bisharian insisted that this was not a threat of or call for violence and that the premier simply sought to defend voters’ freedom to choose a political force preferred by him. The prosecutor admitted, though, that law-enforcement authorities have not charged any ZCMC executive with threatening to fire workers attending Pashinian’s rally.
During the election campaign Pashinian vowed to wage “political vendettas” against local government officials supporting the opposition. “I promise you that you will see those scumbag officials lying here on the asphalt,” he told supporters in Kajaran.
Campaigning in Armenia’s Syunik province, Pashinian also pledged to “break their [bank] accounts, destroy their firms and shove each of these criminal upstarts into holes.”
The mayors of Kajaran and three other Syunik communities affiliated or linked otherwise with Hayastan have been arrested over the past week on what they see as politically motivated charges.
Armenia’s human rights defender, Arman Tatoyan, repeatedly criticized Pashinian’s fiery rhetoric during the parliamentary race. Tatoyan deplored his threats to “throw on the ground” and “bang against the wall” opposition supporters who would try to illegally influence the election outcome.
“This unacceptable rhetoric is associated with mass violations of human rights,” the ombudsman said on June 15.