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Democracy is the main brand of Armenia, and this is our belief and strategy. Nikol Pashinyan


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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan participated in the Armenian Forum for Democracy today. The event is being held for the second time with the joint efforts of "Freedom House" international human rights organization and "Union of Informed Citizens" NGO.

The President of the Republic Vahagn Khachaturyan, Deputy President of the National Assembly Ruben Rubinyan, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Khachatryan, members of the Government, MPs, representatives of diplomatic corps accredited in Armenia, civil society and expert circles were present at the Armenian Forum for Democracy.

Prime Minister Pashinyan made a speech in which he stated:

"Honorable President of the Republic of Armenia,

Dear representatives of the diplomatic corps,

Dear Chairman of "Freedom House" organization,

Dear attendees,

I welcome the holding of the "Armenian Forum for Democracy" for the second year in a row and I hope that this important event will really continue every year and become annual.

I want to record that in the Republic of Armenia the Internet is free, the press is free, elections are free. But I don't want to highlight this as an achievement, I want to highlight this as a standard practice that is the result of all of us working together.

When the non-violent, velvet, popular revolution took place in 2018, and we said that democracy is the main brand of Armenia, many people were suspicious because they said that in the conditions of post-revolutionary euphoria, the government has no need to restrict freedoms.

But the fact that the "Armenian Forum for Democracy" was held in our country for the first time in 2022 and not in 2019, I think, is quite a telling fact, because when we emphasized the freedom of the extraordinary parliamentary elections in 2018, it was also somewhat questioned: what would the elections be like under other conditions? Unfortunately, those other conditions occurred, and we recorded that the elections in those other conditions are not at all less free and democratic, and that is the assessment of the international community, which does not mean that the elections in both 2018 and 2019 were flawless. I mean, of course, the political climate and the political culture is an issue that still needs to be addressed.

In this regard, yes, I must emphasize that democracy is the main brand of Armenia, and this is our belief and our strategy. It is not at all the result of coincidences. This is a conscious political course that the government and people of the Republic of Armenia are pursuing.

In this sense, I must also emphasize that very serious institutional reforms resulting from this are still underway, which should bring with them a higher level of human rights protection, a higher level of the rule of law, and a higher level of anti-corruption policy. But I also want to say that the Republic of Armenia also enjoys the outcomes of these freedoms. And I believe that the high economic growth that we have today is also the result of economic freedoms, because if the economy was manageable and managed by the state, I think that, especially in the post-war period, we would have very serious and deep problems. But since these freedoms have also reached the level of the economy, this freedom came to our aid at the most difficult and decisive moment.

I also want to record that there is no internal threat to democracy in the Republic of Armenia. I am sure of this. All possible threats to the democracy of the Republic of Armenia are external, and these threats are, of course, well-known and visible to everyone. But it is also important that we are able to prove together and answer perhaps the most important and difficult question that exists among the public in Armenia today. And the question is the following: can democracy also provide security? This is indeed a question to which we believe the answer is yes, but which still needs to be proven. I hope, and I am somehow sure that we will be able to give a positive answer to this question.

In this regard, I want to emphasize that, yes, democracy will continue to be the key, main brand of Armenia, but I hope that it will also have related and supporting brands continuously, one of which will be high economic growth and the second - peace. It is this trinity that should serve the very purpose. Because, after all, we are talking about freedoms, but freedom is not the ultimate goal in itself, freedom is a means to ensure human well-being and happiness.

This is the highest goal that we set before ourselves, because our task is that in the conditions of freedom and democracy, a person in the Republic of Armenia should be prosperous, protected, happy and able to do what he loves and ensure his own well-being, and also country's well-being with the results of his favorite work. Of course, democracy, in our understanding, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for this, and we must of course ensure the rest of the institutional prerequisites as well, so that this vision becomes a reality.

Thank you".

Next, Nikol Pashinyan participated in the panel discussion under the title "Democratic development in the conditions of national security challenges" held within the framework of the forum and answered a number of questions.

Referring to the ideology of the "Civil Contract" party and also to the question of how the security situation created after 2020 has changed the understanding of the governance system, the Prime Minister noted. "We have said that the ideology of the "Civil Contract" party is beyond "isms". They are somewhat different things. And I must say honestly, during this period and before that, and after that, I have thought a lot about that topic, and there are also those debates within our party. In fact, our ideology has been democracy itself. I said today that democracy is a strategy for us, but democracy was our ideology that pushed us towards the revolution. And that is the reason why democracy became, was and continues to be the brand of Armenia.

In this regard, there was a provision in the speech of the President of the Republic, which prompts a very interesting parallel and is related to your question. The President spoke about the relationship between democracy and the Nagorno Karabakh problem. This is a serious topic, and for me one of the most important problems of this topic is that, in fact, the lack of democracy in the Republic of Armenia or the attitude towards democracy has served as a tool so that we all do not know the whole truth about the Karabakh issue. This is a very important nuance. Of course, I don't want to start a political debate, to instigate a political debate, but the model that only a few people are aware of the Karabakh issue at an expert level is the clearest proof of that, and the biggest problem we have faced is exactly that. And this is the reason why we are receiving information about the Karabakh issue now, in democratic conditions, that we learn new information, bring up new meanings and contexts of famous words, and this is a very important detail."

Speaking about the Government-civil society cooperation, Nikol Pashinyan noted. "Recently, we had a discussion in the Government in a closed working mode, and during the discussion we recorded that indeed we constantly see that in terms of the involvement of civil society, the efficiency is not always at the proper or desired level. We tried to quickly investigate the issue and understand what the problem is. And when I looked at the hall, there were officials present, I understood the problem: all those present are from the civil society. This is where the conflict is, because often no one notices this absence of civil society in the discussions or looks at it from the side view, because wherever you look, everyone is from civil society. Our government today, the parliamentary majority, the civil society today, in fact, has a majority, and this is a very important detail. But I'm not saying this because there is no need to change anything. On the contrary, one must first understand the problem in order to solve it, and I agree that we need to involve more and ensure the involvement of civil society in our policy making.

There is one more reason, however, for this I would like to mention that after the war, when very serious dividing lines appeared, very often tendencies of politicization appeared among the civil society, which also creates an additional problem. But I definitely agree that it's one of our biggest systemic problems today, that civil society needs to be properly involved in policy making. How to make it truly engaging and productive and not constantly conflicting? It is another problem that we will definitely discuss and solve."

The Prime Minister referred to the observation made during the panel discussion that free elections are still not enough to have democracy. "I definitely agree with that wording and I also mentioned it in my speech. Իt is very important that democratic elections and democracy in turn lead to the establishment of democratic institutions. Without it, it is not possible to make democracy institutional. And in this sense, of course, we have very big challenges in terms of the independence of the judicial system. I consider the formation of a democratic, political culture very important. I talked about the 2021 elections, after that a formulation came to my mind: hammer and sickle elections, which, of course, is an expression of a very difficult political situation. The rule of law is, of course, the most important condition for the establishment of democracy. Democracy and institutions exist in the conditions when a person is aware of his rights and the mechanisms to protect his rights, because today we see many problems that reach the president, the prime minister, the government for one simple reason: a person does not know about his rights and does not know how to protect them”.

According to Nikol Pashinyan, it is dangerous to say that those countries where democratic reforms are taking place are being attacked. "That, in my opinion, is not a correct perception of the situation, because we all forget the war of 2016. The 2020 war is in every way a continuation of the 2016 war. It's another thing if you say democracy couldn't prevent that war from happening. I keep reminding this: after all, let's not forget, in April 2018, Serzh Sargsyan, as a candidate for prime minister, had announced about imminency of war. At that time, there was no revolution in Armenia yet. And this is a very important understanding: why the democratic government was unable to avoid the war? Precisely because of the fact mentioned by the President, because the government faced a volume of truth related to the Karabakh issue, which was indigestible first of all for the government coming from the square and even more indigestible for the public. This is the fundamental reason, because when you see what there is under the mottos, and it is indigestible in reality."

The Head of the Government emphasized the importance of protecting the rights and identity of national minorities, saying: "There is criticism against Armenia that Armenia is a mono-ethnic country. Although it is difficult to understand what kind of accusation it is, on the other hand, we should happily record that in our country, national minorities are represented in the parliament, and I think that this is a very important institutional feature. I am also very happy that in Armenia there are not only Christian temples, but also Muslim mosques, temples of the Yazidi religion, and this is extremely important. Moreover, there is both an Armenian Catholic community, an evangelical community, and an Armenian apostolic community in Armenia, and I don't think that today, in any direction, any community can say that its religious freedoms are violated in any way."

In response to the question regarding the external threats to democracy and the membership to the security integration unions, the Prime Minister stated: "I said in my speech that, yes, I consider democracy in Armenia to be irreversible internally. And what are the external threats? I want to talk about our nearest past.

Look, on May 10, 2021, my resignation comes into effect, and the parliament is dissolved, that is, there is practically no government or parliament in the country, and on May 12, the invasion of Azerbaijan in the Sotk-Khoznavar sector takes place. Zero reaction from the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Now there are high-ranking military officers detained in the sidelines of a criminal case. Why are they detained, because it turns out that they did not take any action to protect the sovereign territory of Armenia? Do you understand? And they have no explanation, because everything should have an explanation. Now let's imagine if our reactions were, so to speak, linear in May 2021, we would have lost both democracy and the state, and there is no exaggeration in what I am saying. Of course we have challenges. When the events in Ukraine started, Armenia tried, so to speak, to have certain balanced positions with its votes and so on. Under those circumstances, there was a situation when it created some satisfaction among all the partners. But, of course, I also said publicly, it is obvious that over time, Armenia's and everyone else's field of maneuver is narrowing. This is, of course, a very serious challenge and problem for all of us and even more so for the Republic of Armenia, considering its vulnerability."

When asked whether the authorities have the will to institutionalize democracy in Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan said: "The President of the Republic of Armenia is sitting here, I am here, the members of the Government are here, why did we come here if we have no will? In other words, this is also the expression of that will, but the question was about something else: how to make institutions, not someone’s will, the hope of the people? That is already the second question, the answer is the reform agenda that we have. Moreover, here we have, by the way, the answer to that question from an independent source, because the Republic of Armenia is considered a leading state in at least 5 directions within the framework of the Eastern Partnership program, and one of them is the establishment of an independent judicial system, anti-corruption policy and freedom of elections, assemblies, and so on.

You are right, if, for example, there is no freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the Internet, freedom of elections is not just voting, right? Thanks God, we managed to provide all that under the most difficult conditions. But I still want to return to deeper institutional reforms, and that is education, because I believe that democracy is directly related to the quality and access to education, because the lack of proper conditions for education in hundreds of our villages is the biggest challenge to democracy”.

Summarizing the speech, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan once again referred to the importance of institutionalizing democracy.

"However, in terms of the institutionalization of democracy, I also want to emphasize the well-being of the citizen, which is very important. I did not mention high economic growth, because peace, democracy should be associated with well-being, happiness, otherwise, if the country is poor and people are in extreme poverty, by and large, what difference does it make from the point of view of a person, an individual, whether it is democratic or not democratic, or how institutionally democratic is it? That is, both democracy, freedom, the rule of law, and institutions are ultimately a means to the ultimate end, which is human happiness. If we don't put that goal at the heart of our strategy, I think there's something wrong with the system. When there was no democracy, it seemed far away, it could be a goal, but if democracy is here, then what is the next goal? - peace, economic growth, human well-being and happiness”.



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