Pashinian Blames ‘Counterrevolution’ In Wake Of Wiretapping Scandal

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks on the wiretapping scandal at a Yerevan rally, 11Sep2018

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian urged all his supporters in Yerevan to defeat ‘counterrevolution’ in an upcoming mayoral election as he addressed a campaign rally in one of the city districts on Tuesday night.

Pashinian dedicated much of his speech to the wiretapping scandal involving the top officials of security and investigation agencies.

Armenian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the wiretapping of telephone conversations between the chiefs of the National Security Service and the Special Investigation Service in which they discussed an ongoing investigation into the 2008 postelection violence.

The audio of the conversations apparently supposed to compromise the Pashinian government was leaked to the media and posted online by several news websites earlier that day.

Reacting to it, the office of former president Robert Kocharian, a key figure accused in connection with the deadly events that occurred a decade ago, said that the contents of the conversations showed that the case was “a classical example of a political vendetta.”

Speaking at the rally Prime Minister Pashinian described the wiretapping of the officials as “a conspiracy and crime against the statehood of Armenia.”

“I have instructed the National Security Service, the police to find those who organized the conspiracy within the shortest possible period of time and hold them accountable in the strictest terms,” he said.

Pashinian also claimed that “some people connected with oligarchs and high-ranking officials have acquired wiretapping equipment and created their own special services working in parallel with the state special services.”

“All of these so-called ‘special services’ will be identified and destroyed. All groups possessing weapons illegally will be disarmed. I order the police and the National Security Service to start raids immediately,” Pashinian said.

Remarkably, for the first time in the capacity of prime minister, Pashinian directly accused ex-president and ex-prime minister Serzh Sarkisian, whom he unseated as a result of sustained peaceful street protests last April, of being behind the “counterrevolution”. Also for the first time, he vowed that “Sarkisian will appear in court.”

“Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, you have decided to challenge the people of Armenia. Your challenge is accepted,” Pashinian said in a stern tone.

Referring to the investigation of the March 1-2, 2008 postelection crackdown in which 10 people were killed, Pashinian accused Kocharian and Sarkisian of “usurping power” and said they must be tried for their crimes.

“Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian are responsible for the plunder of Armenia and they must be tried,” he charged.

Pashinian stressed in that context that voters in the Yerevan municipal elections slated for September 23 must, therefore, support the pro-government My Step bloc to ensure its clear victory and thus send a message to the “counterrevolution”.

“This mayoral election is an election between revolution and counterrevolution… Lots of political parties and groups that pretend to be our allies and supporters of the revolution have flirted and continue to flirt with the counterrevolution. Don’t give the counterrevolution a single vote,” Pashinian said.

“In the coming elections we need more than just a victory. We need an unconditional, complete and undisputed majority, we need an unconditional surrender of the counterrevolution in this coming election.”

A total of 12 political parties and alliances are running in the September 23 municipal elections in Yerevan. A number of them were coalition partners with the Sarkisian-led Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in the past. All of them, however, have denied current links with the former ruling party. The HHK itself is not participating in the race that many analysts believe will become an acid test for Pashinian and his political team ahead of early parliamentary elections expected at some time before next summer.