The properties include a former military base located in the center of Yerevan as well as plots of land and buildings outside the capital that used to house various army units and services. The government decided to put them up for sale in April 2022, saying that their maintenance is meaningless and costly and that proceeds from their sale will be used for the Armenian army’s needs.
Some civic activists dismiss this explanation as too vague. They are also concerned about a lack of transparency in the planned privatizations.
“They must better substantiate the need for privatizing those properties,” Artur Sakunts, a human rights campaigner, said on Monday.
Sakunts also said that the government has failed to explain how it will go about setting the right price for the facilities.
Varuzhan Hoktanian, who heads the Armenian branch of the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, also stressed the importance of “maximum transparency, professionalism and impartiality” in the planned selloff. The market value of the properties in question must be evaluated by independent experts, he said.
The government plans came under the spotlight earlier this month as the pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament allowed prosecutors to bring criminal charges against Seyran Ohanian, the parliamentary leader of the main opposition Hayastan alliance.
Ohanian, who served defense minister from 2008-2016, was charged with having illegally allowed the privatization of four abandoned properties that belonged to the Defense Ministry. He and his political allies reject the accusations as politically motivated.
Gegham Manukian, another Hayastan parliamentarian, said on Monday that the government is intent on doing what Ohanian authorized during his tenure.
Deputies representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract voiced support for Ohanian’s indictment during a February 8 session of the National Assembly which discussed lifting the opposition leader’s immunity from prosecution.
As one of those lawmakers, Gevorg Papoyan, put it: “Can you imagine what an outcry some corrupt journalists, analysts or editors would make today if it turned out that a particular military base in Armenia is shut down or put up for sale?”