Pashinyan’s PACE Speech Draws Mixed Opposition Reaction

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STRASBOURG, France (RFE/RL) — An Armenian opposition leader on Friday, April 12, praised Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s latest remarks on Nagorno-Karabakh but disputed his claim that Armenia has become a full-fledged democracy since last year’s “velvet revolution.”

“Of course, there were many interesting and good points,” Gevorg Gorisyan of the Bright Armenia Party (LHK) said, commenting on Pashinyan’s speech delivered in the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Thursday. “In particular, with regard to the Karabakh issue, on human rights in Karabakh and the conflict’s resolution and peace.”

“But there were also some flaws such as [Pashinyan’s claims about] the establishment of democracy, economic miracle, reforms which have only just begun, a process where we see numerous shortcomings,” Gorisyan said.

“Armenia is today unequivocally a democratic country with absolute freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” Pashinyan declared on the PACE floor. He said his government has eliminated “systemic corruption,” broken up economic monopolies and created “prerequisites for everyone’s equality before the law” since taking office less than a year ago.

Gorisyan countered that the civil liberties cited by Pashinyan are necessary but not sufficient for a democratic political system which he said also requires an effective system of checks and balances. He said the prime minister is reluctant to curb sweeping executive powers inherited from the country’s former leader, Serzh Sarkisian.

Sergey Bagratyan, a senior lawmaker representing the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), also hailed parts of Pashinyan’s speech that related to the Karabakh conflict. In particular, he said, Pashinyan was right to make a case for international recognition of the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination.

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While stressing the importance of his “constructive and positive dialogue” with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the Armenian premier called for direct contacts between the two societies. He rebuked the PACE for having “paid no attention whatsoever to supporting non-governmental organizations operating in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Pashinyan also criticized pro-Azerbaijani resolutions on Karabakh adopted by the PACE in the past. He charged that one of those resolutions “became a prelude” to offensive military operations launched by Azerbaijan in April 2016.

 

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