Four months ago oppositionist Nikol Pashinyan was leading mass anti-government protests in Armenia that within weeks toppled Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and propelled Pashinyan into power. Securing victory as interim Prime Minister in May, Pashinyan promised electoral and anti-corruption reform.
In the days following his election, Pashinyan brought in a new team – a mix of people with backgrounds in media, non-government organizations and think tanks. Critics say their lack of political experience could lead to the government’s downfall.
Stepan Grigoryan, Director of the Yerevan-based Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, said Pashinyan now needed to bring in renowned experts – those who may have worked under the old regime but have proven to be honest.
“He can’t just rely solely on his team because it’s young and inexperienced and it will be hard for him to realize his projects and ideas,” he said.
But it’s not only internal politics that the new government has been tested on during its first three months in power. Armenia’s relations with its closest military ally were tested recently when Russia carried out unauthorized military training at its base in the northwest of Armenia. Pashinyan described the exercises as a provocation against Armenian-Russian relations and the sovereignty of Armenia.
Grigoryan told Hromadske Armenia has always had problems with the Russian military base.
“There were instances where lone military men would come into Armenian towns,” he said. “But for an entire military exercise to be conducted, when an entire military unit with weapons comes into a village and without warning conducted military training, which included shooting – and it may be with blanks, but it’s still shooting – we’ve never had that before.”
At a recent press conference in Yerevan, the government was also questioned on whether it would change its position on Crimea. In 2014, the country voted against the UN resolution recognizing Russia’s referendum in Crimea as illegal. Arsen Kharatyan, adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, told the press there would be no change in foreign policy on this matter.
He pointed to the fact that Ukraine recognized Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that has been a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as a part of Azerbaijan – in line with the UN resolution.
“But we are ready to talk to our Georgian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian counterparts. If we want to change the way and the mechanism of votes that had taken place earlier, let's talk,” Kharatyan said.
Hromadske traveled to Armenia to see what changes are taking place on the ground three months since Nikol Pashinyan’s election.
READ MORE: Protests In Yerevan: The Face Of Change