After weeks of anti-government protests, the Armenian National Assembly elected opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the country’s new Prime Minister. Rising to power on a platform of electoral and anti-corruption reform, Pashinyan has become the face of Armenia’s revolution.
But political commentators say the euphoria from Armenia’s Velvet Revolution is wearing off and now the public wants to see results.
Political analyst Mikayel Zolyan says he sees people becoming more critical of specific ministers in Pashinyan’s new government as well as his policies. Furthermore, while Pashinyan’s government controls the Prime Minister’s office and the ministries, the Republican Party still holds the majority in parliament. Zolyan says this could make it difficult for the new government to implement the promised reforms.
“What probably will happen and what Nikol Pashinyan wants to happen is that he will present the program of his government to the parliament, which has to vote for it, and if the parliament rejects it then there will be new elections of the Prime Minister. If this fails then the parliament has to be dissolved,” he said.
Zolyan says if parliament accepts the program – although unlikely – it could mean this power balance will remain in place for the next year.
“It will complicate things for Nikol Pashinyan and his government. It will be very difficult for them to implement their reform agenda,” he said.
Hromadske spoke with Mikayel Zolyan, a political analyst at the Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences, about Armenia’s political future.
With Nikol Pashinyan elected as Prime Minister, what have been his first steps in power?
He has already appointed the majority of the government and the majority of the ministers and we already see that his government has a new way of communicating with the public. In the past, the government ministers and Prime Minister were difficult to reach. They hardly gave press conferences and communicated through the press secretaries and usually gave very limited statements. Now both the time Prime Minister and his ministers are communicating directly with the public, they are going live on Facebook, once or twice every day, talking about recent developments, reacting to the criticism that has been voiced on social networks. The first session of the cabinet has been broadcast live, again on Facebook. So they have this approach of direct democracy when it comes to communication with society. As for specific steps, they haven’t had much time yet and couldn’t suggest specific reforms but they have sent the message, especially to institutions such as the police and the customs office, that corruption can no longer be tolerated, that all those complications that people have had, for example when importing certain goods into Armenia, that this has to be stopped. And there have been reports in the media that businessmen who are importing certain goods into Armenia [are finding the] process much easier than before.
Can you tell us about the political mood in Armenia now?
A week ago people were still [euphoric], there was the euphoria of the movement, the revolution has just been won. It was obvious that this wasn’t going to last very long. Now there is more criticism, there is criticism about specific ministers who have been appointed. There is a lot of questions about specific policies. What is the government doing on this issue, that issue, so now people are in a much more demanding mood. They are done celebrating and they want specific results. This is a very complicated period for the new government because we have to understand they’re not completely in power. They control the Prime Minister’s office and the ministries but in the parliament, the old ruling party still has the majority.
The constitution of Armenia, which has recently changed in order to keep the ruling Republican Party, it doesn’t give many options. At this moment what probably will happen, and what Nikol Pashinyan wants to happen, is that he will present the program of his government to the parliament has to vote for it and if the parliament rejects it, then there will be new elections of the Prime Minister. If this fails then the parliament has to be dissolved. At this point, this is the most realistic way of dissolving the parliament. If the parliament accepts the program then it means that for a year, the parliament will still be in place and it will complicate things for Nikol Pashinyan and his government. It will be very difficult for them to implement their reform agenda.
What can we expect from Pashinya’s program?
When it comes to foreign policy, I think his foreign policy will be very cautious because of the geopolitical situation in Armenia. He’s not going to try to make any significant movements to the east, to the west, or the north, or the south. I think his top priority will be reforming the internal political and economic system, getting rid of corruption, ensuring the division of power and the independence of the legislative and of the courts, making sure that the tax system is just. We had a lot of complaints from small and medium business about the way the taxes are collected, the way the customs offices work and so on.
Pashinyan’s top priority will be reforming the internal political and economic system, getting rid of corruption, ensuring the division of power and the independence of the legislative system and courts.
Pashinyan talked a lot about holding snap elections when he becomes Prime Minister. When can we expect these elections to take place?
He has to first present his program to the parliament and if his program is not accepted, according to the constitution, the snap elections have to take place. If the program is not accepted, then the parliament votes again on the candidature of the prime minister, if no new prime minister is elected, Pashinyan remains Prime Minister and his government remains acting government until new election is called and, in this scenario, the new election will happen in about two months. So that’s the most probable scenario at this point. Of course, the Republicans can make a smart move and vote for his program, which will mean the new election would be called in about a year. Throughout this year then the Republicans will control the parliament, but at this point, it’s not very likely.
What kind of results could we expect from these elections, if they were to be held now?
At this moment Pashinyan is very popular, the whole movement is popular, so if the elections take place now or even in two months from now, I think he’s guaranteed to win. He will receive a very high amount of votes. If the election takes place in a year, by that time probably there will be a lot of disappointment. Also, within this one year because of the Republican resistance, he will not be able to implement many of his reforms and we might see a backlash. I don’t know what the percentage will be, but if the election takes place in one year, it might give a new chance to the Republican Party. So probably that’s why they will be trying to postpone the election and to have it in one year.
/By Natalie Vikhrov