YEREVAN—By a vote of 62 to 35 Armenia’s National Assembly on Thursday approved the program of the new government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who in presenting the program, prioritized early parliamentary elections, fight against corruption and restoring the rule of law for all citizens of Armenia.
Pashinyan, who was elected prime minister on May 8 after weeks-long protests that toppled the decade-long regime of former president Serzh Sarkisian, said that formation of power in the country would take place exclusively through the free expression of the people’s will, national unity and rule of law, where every Armenian citizen will be equal in the eyes of the law.
Members of the Republican Party of Armenia, headed by Sarkisian, voted overwhelmingly against the government program, with 12 of its members voting in favor the Pashinyan plan. The party no longer holds a majority in parliament after six of its members defected or were ousted from its parliamentary faction.
He also stressed the importance of combatting corruption, separating politics from business and commerce, protecting human rights and increasing and guaranteeing security for Armenia and Artsakh as a way to bolster Armenia’s internal and external safety. All these efforts, he said, were the basis to ensuring and creating favorable conditions for Armenian citizens to live a happy and dignified existence.
“The absence of artificial economic monopolies, protection of economic competitiveness, a real opportunity to be engaged in one’s desired economic activity, ensuring the inclusive growth of the economy, overcoming poverty, constantly advancing the education level and social standing of citizens, public rejection of violence, protection of environment and reasonable use of natural resources are a priority for our government,” said Pashinyan in presenting his government program from the dais of the parliament.
WATCH PASHINYAN’S PRESENTATION AT PARLIAMENT
“We are convinced that for nearly 20 years Armenia’s development has been hampered due to failures in the aforementioned realms. We are also convinced that these issues are connected to one another through a common thread. Let me reiterate that the main problem that has hindered Armenia’s development has been the constant and consistent disregard for the people’s will during elections,” explained Pashinyan.
The prime minister emphasized the need for early parliamentary elections and pledged that a more representative national assembly will be elected after reforms and changes are made to existing electoral codes, adding that if elections were to be held today, his team would walk away with an absolute majority. However, he emphasized the need to reform the electoral code to ensure the fair participation of all political forces in the upcoming elections, which he envisioned would take place within a year.
“A class of privileged people engaged in electoral fraud has emerged, among them the judiciary, which has served at the whim of those in power sponsoring their effort to act outside of the law. In such circumstances values such as public unity and solidarity have failed since the calls for unity voiced by official propaganda didn’t pursue a goal to ensure unity, but a proposal to tolerate and close ones eyes to illegalities and violence,” said Pashinyan.
The prime minister said that eradicating this devastating phenomenon for the country is a priority for the government, adding that all conditions exist for to achieve that goal because the citizens of Armenia managed eventually to break the chains of electoral bribes, fear, coercion and dependence on the state.
On the issue of the Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan told parliament that he was ready to sit at the negotiating table with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, adding however, that he would like to elevate the effectiveness of the peace talks.
Negotiations on the Karabakh conflict resolution cannot be full-fledged and effective as long as one of the full parties to the conflict – the Republic of Artsakh – is not participating in the process, Pashinyan said while presenting his government program to the parliament.
He said that this his approach is not a novel one, but a reality that has been “well-forgotten past.”
The fact that Artsakh is a full-fledged party to the talks was confirmed at the OSCE Budapest summit in 1994, Pashinyan said, and reminded that negotiations were being conducted in that format up until 1998 when Robert Kocharian became the president of Armenia and opted to present Artsakh’s interests in the talks.