Address by Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to National Assembly
Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly,
Dear National Assembly Members,
First of all, I would like to make it clear that my nomination as prime minister is of formal nature, and I have been nominated for the post of prime minister by Yelk faction not to be elected, but on the contrary, to be rejected as a candidate for prime minister. Consequently, the National Assembly should not vote for me today.
Mt nomination is meant to rule out any speculation about legitimacy in the upcoming parliamentary elections, to preclude any legal loopholes for waiving the proposed elections that will be discussed later in more detail.
At this point, I would like to stress that it is definite that we will have snap parliamentary elections this December, which will ultimately become the final destination of the non-violent, velvet revolution of April-May 2018. However, I would like to revisit this chair of the National Assembly is a good occasion to speak about the events that took place in Armenia over the past five and a half months, their meaning and political significance.
First of all, I would like to touch upon the question as to what happened in Armenia: a revolution, or just change of power. It is obvious for me that in fact a revolution has taken place in Armenia, since we can state a real change in social formations. And the meaning of the change is that before April 2018, Armenia’s dominant political factor was the criminal, economic, political elite, while the people’s will has become the country’s dominant political factor after the revolution. People were able to get the aforementioned political and economic elite to choose their preferred candidate for the office of Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and recognize the power of the people.
This topic is urgent as there are politicians, analysts who keep claiming that there has just been a change of government, not a revolution in Armenia. The truth is actually the opposite, a revolution has taken place in Armenia, but a change of power has not yet happened, at least a complete change of power.
Yes, the people’s power is established in Armenia; yes, we have a people’s government in Armenia, but the people and the people’s government still do not have the tool to implement their ideas and ideals in full, because not only a larger part of the administrative machinery is still abiding by the old logic and tradition, but also is cherishing a latent hope of political comeback in the country.
Since May 8, 2018, that is, after my premiership, criminal cases have been filed against dozens of public officials in Armenia on charges of abuses, bribes and appropriations. I do not mean the legal proceedings that have been brought about the cases dated before May 8 or the events of April and May; I speak about the actions that took place after the revolution, after my assumption to premiership.
I wondered for a long time how a public official might take bribes in the Republic of Armenia, make appropriations and so on after April-May 2018. Fancy what! There turned out to be such officials in Armenia who asked and took bribes. The answer is one, and there cannot be other rationale behind this. The old system, including the incumbent parliamentary majority, has been sending signals that the revolution is short-lived and that all this has a few months’ prospect; that all this will soon be over, and the old system will be back. In other words, those who continue to act according to the old logic are not superhuman; they need a source of inspiration, which is wrong. Consequently, the source of their inspiration is the former parliamentary majority and the former ruling system. Note that this inspiration was not merely latent, it also had public manifestations.
The representatives of the Republican Party have repeatedly stated that there were no preconditions for snap elections in Armenia, and the next parliamentary elections were supposed to be held in 2022. The representatives of the Republican faction have given several interviews and made statements about it. All this has been done for the following purposes: firstly, to keep the consolidated corrupt system going for a long time ahead in Armenia and, secondly, to foster an atmosphere of nervousness in Armenia as longer as possible so that people could not have the opportunity to live a quiet life, to create economic and investment bottlenecks and as much obstacles as possible for the Government and wait for the right moment for the comeback.
At the same time, three real attempts have been carried out so far to reach a political revenge. The first was the attempt to consolidate around Robert Kocharyan which, however, failed due to the indisputable and powerful denial on the part of our people.
The second attempt came on October 2 at the National Assembly when the parliamentary majority amended the law on the National Assembly’s rules of procedure in order to nullify the people’s factor amid the ongoing political processes. But within just two hours, around 80000 Armenian citizens blocked the building of the National Assembly and showed that all attempts to rule out the nation’s political factor were going to meet with strong popular resistance without exception.
The third attempt was what happened in the National Assembly this Monday when the Republican Party rejected and boycotted the proposed amendments to the Electoral Code. This was done in the hope that the upcoming extraordinary parliamentary elections might be held under the current Electoral Code, that is, by the rating system, because suddenly the hope for the Republican Party representatives and their associates and people to vote for the snap elections could give them a chance of revenge.
And what was the reason why those people began to think so? The reason should be directly linked to the Mayor’s election in Kapan, Syunik regional center. And what happened in Kapan? It turned out that the old electoral system and the old electoral culture still indicated some signs of viability in the Syunik region.
What does this mean in practice? This means that the current criminal, political and economic elite of Syunik has been able to maintain considerable levers in their hands, consolidate and direct a specific segment of the population to vote as they wished, eventually reaching the desired result. The Republicans do hope that they will be able to launch the Kapan model in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Journalists and analysts are definitely right to pay much attention to the Kapan elections, but they are mistaken when connecting the incident to Hunan Poghosyan, the newly appointed Governor of Syunik Marz. On the contrary, the decision to appoint Hunan Poghosyan as Syunik Marz Governor had to do with the government’s conviction and information on the still existing old system in Syunik.
My conviction is as follows: the revolution will never come to Syunik as long as there are economic and criminal forces in the province who think that they are stronger and more capable than the people’s power.
The people’s government has no alternative in Syunik, and it must be established in the province. This is not a political issue, but a most important issue of national security, which I have mentioned in a number of parameters in Kapan on October 19. And my unshakeable conviction, shaped over the past five months is that this problem may only be solved by an individual with great deal of management experience, by a governor familiar with all the details and nuances of the old political system, who will be able to minimize the influence of the former economic and criminal elite.
As they say, this is the case when the wedge should be wedged. This is the reason why we decided to appoint Hunan Poghosyan, the longtime deputy head of the Armenian Police, to be Governor of Syunik Marz. The main reason for that decision is not to establish a new dictatorship in Syunik, but to guarantee the rights and freedoms of Syunik’s proud citizens, which is simply impossible without neutralizing the criminal elite’s unhealthy influence. And that is a problem we are going to deal with accurately, resolutely and irresistibly.
In the light of all this, a question may arise naturally: why have we accepted the results of the mayor’s election in Kapan and considered it a victory for democracy. First of all, to show our belief that most of the constituency had voted in accordance with their sincere conviction and the absolute minority voted by the logic of the old electoral system, whose behavior proved unfortunately decisive for the final election results.
By accepting the election’s results we assumed that we could carry on our sincere dialogue with the public, giving them more detailed and understandable explanation of our actions, showing in practice the decisive nature of every single citizen’s vote. Throughout my political activity, I have been trying to convince the citizens that their vote was the most decisive factor. My long-standing political debate and dialogue with people consisted in preventing them from saying that their vote decided nothing, and I have tried to convince people that yes, everything depends on your vote.
And the revolution took place when most citizens of Armenia took a moment and realized that yes, it was a decisive political factor - it is up to the citizen to decide what would have to happen. And it is very important that we can clearly describe this logic to the citizens of the Republic of Armenia.
I want to emphasize that the voting in Kapan and its outturn are legitimate. The official outcome of the vote reflects the choice of people, but my political stance is that the criminal and economic elite have had an unhealthy impact on the outcome of the election only because the revolution has not yet reached everyone and not everyone has felt and appreciated their freedom. And we have a clear-cut task, that is, to ensure that freedom is not a mere statement in Armenia, including Syunik, but a toolkit that can be used by every citizen of the Republic of Armenia and our political task is to make that freedom truly accessible.
By the way, I would like to draw your attention to another fact when Valeri Osipyan, a high-ranking police official, formerly high-ranking official Valeri Osipyan and former National Security Service senior officer Arthur Vanetsian were appointed as Chief of Police and National Security Service Director. There was a lot of talk and a great discourse of incomprehension, but after one or two discussions that topic was closed.
In Hunan Poghosyan’s case, the Facebook-borne tide, and not only, lasted a little bit longer because the background of honest questions, acceptable questions and concerns was used skillfully by some economic and criminal circles in Syunik, including through the use of controlled media, and possibly they will again try to use the media outlets under their control in order to ensure the antinational authority’s survival in Syunik, or otherwise to secure their stay in power.
I will touch on this subject in more detail because, as I said, this is a very important domestic political episode. On the other hand, as a prime minister elected by the people’s request, I cannot allow any misinterpretation or allegation regarding our decisions, any misinterpretations in the sense of our motives.
I do not say that we cannot make mistakes, but our motives should be open to the end; they should be sincere, transparent and visible to our people. In this context, of course, there are numerous and a number of legitimate issues. In particular, the point is that as we do not rule out that even those representing the Republican Party or their government, even the persons representing the relevant parliamentary faction can cooperate with us, a very legitimate question may arise: where is the limit, the border? There must be a border. I want to emphasize two important factors:
First, the record of not being involved in corruption, I mean in practice and not just in the form of a political declaration. I am stating this because all the necessary conditions are available today to investigate in all detail every single case concerning the incumbent dignitaries, the former State officials, the so-called new generation of officials who have become officials after the revolution or have become officials before or during the revolution. There are some technical problems that I will address later in my speech.
That is to say, from this podium I have declared as a candidate for prime minister or as a prime minister that even if there is a similar case affecting me or my family members, my political activity and career will be deemed senseless, should there be political obstacles to investigation.
Firstly, any public official associated with corruption schemes cannot hold office in Armenia during our rule.
Secondly, any official involved in a bloodshed story cannot occupy a post in the government,
Thirdly, those officials who have failed in the exercise of their duties in government.
Moreover, these principles refer not only to the former officials. And who says that the newcomers are angels! During this period, I experienced some deep frustration and stress when I saw people who presented themselves and acted as strongest defenders of the revolution, but were demoralized within a few months and even a few weeks after the victory.
I could not help mentioning it, because it would have been dishonest to our people, and dishonest to us, first of all. In this regard, there is absolutely no difference for me between the formers and the present ones. There is no difference, even if it is about me, because principles and the truth are what matters most to me. If we happen to deviate from the truth even a millimeter, if we were to avoid looking straight into people’s eyes, then I will deem our life and activities senseless.
We have no right to prefer any bond of kinship and friendship to those values that we have created together. It will be a straightforward betrayal of the State, the Homeland and the Nation.
I want to say to all the citizens who criticize us on different occasions, each piece of your criticisms is perceived very straightforward, analyzed, and relevant conclusions are made. We are far from the idea that we should not be criticized at all.
In general, there is much talk about who has experience, who has no experience. criticize us, and in the assignment of inexperienced ones and in the appointment of the tested ones, because every step is worthy of criticism, and it is good that they criticize it.
But here is what I want to tell you. What we are doing now and what we have done so far is unprecedented because what is going on now in Armenia has never before happened in any other country of the world.
There are elaborate research papers and theories treating of the formation of all existing systems in the world. What we have done is out of all theories; it even escaped our perceptions, and what we are doing now is out of all perceptions, standards, and this is our main mission. This is what makes the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian people unique on the planet. Let no one think he or she has enough experience to model a country; we are the ones to forge the new Armenia because that new Armenia has never existed before. No one can tell us what will happen next since there is not a prefabricated roadmap. This is just a process through which we must pass.
We are pioneers in this respect and, therefore, we should not be afraid of taking the lead because it will raise the prestige of our people and our country around the world. So, dear compatriots, all your messages are perceived, all your criticisms are accepted, and yes, I welcome those representatives of civil society and media outlets who scrutinize each public official’s past record, biography, property, and income.
We will never beware of the truth; we will cooperate with all those who seek the truth, whether favorable or not. But on the other hand, I hope that no one wants to see in Armenia an indifferent government, unable to make a decision, a government that can go to pieces and crumble to dust under criticism.
I hope nobody wants to have such a government because there are good, bad, effective, inefficient governments in the world, but weak government is the worst disaster for any State. The worst disaster for any country is the weak leader and authority. Our rule will never be weak. Our authority will be principled; it will strike where it has to, it will strike wherever supposed to get a blow; it will get up and stand firm on its feet, and will never deviate even a millimeter from the truth and its mission.
I want to reiterate once again: yes, we consider struggle against corruption one of our most important missions. No one should doubt that the March 1 case will be exposed to the least detail, and I just call on everybody to be prepared for its full disclosure because it will not be that easy to learn everything that I am sure you will soon find out concerning this and other such controversial cases.
I am often asked quite a legitimate question these days: why there are no new revelations, there is an impression that the process has somehow stopped or is at standstill now. Yes, that is right, and it has specific reasons.
1. The workload of investigative bodies and investigators in Armenia has redoubled - that is, we have investigators examining 20, 30 and more cases at once.
2. Next, as a rule or at least often the courts ask for a bail and release the convicted persons from detention. Here, I want to be very clear, since we are criticized for arresting people on the one hand, and setting them free, on the other. This is a very delicate issue, and a very serious charge.
I want to say honestly, although I know many will find this a weakness. I do not interfere in the affairs of the judiciary, not because I cannot, but because I have committed myself to the public.
And as long as the courts are functioning, we can have both good news and bad news. The good news is that today we have an unprecedented situation as our penitentiary institutions are the least crowded today. In other words, we have solved a problem we had been trying to tackle for over 20 years. And it used to go that way deliberately; I have spent quite a lot of time in penitentiaries, and I can assure you that it was being done on purpose. The criminal elite was said to have power in Armenia, and the given state of affairs had to do with that. Having a place to sleep cost a lot of money; who would pay more, could earn a spot to sleep, and all that was the so-called “good boy’s bazaar.” Penitentiary institutions used to be the largest business or one of the largest businesses in the Republic of Armenia.
And it had quite a simple explanation. As soon as a prisoner entered the penitentiary, he was put on a conveyor - and that phenomenon still exists – they were put on a conveyor, and the machinery kept working in order to get the most possible amount of money of inmates whether through gambling or by other means before they had been freed from prison.
People sold their homes to pay out their debts in the penitentiary, and the more prisoners arrived there, the better for the Mafiosi structures most of which are still holding posts in penitentiaries.
And why did we not pull it out from there: just for a very simple reason? First, it would be incorrect to mix up the dough with the dry and, secondly, if we oust them all, who will come to do the job for 70,000 drams?
That is to say, this is a serious issue faced by our investigative authorities, but on the other hand, I do not rule out that there are instances where the law-court issues a ruling based on its firm belief rather than on some corrupt practices. We have come to the conclusion that in the near future we should just analyze cases in order to understand what percentage of court rulings had been legitimate, and vice versa.
And we have to come up with the relevant conclusions, but I want to tell you that I have no arrangement made with anyone, especially with the courts. The fact that I did not give orders to judicial authorities does not mean that the judicial system was not looking for instructions, and I would not rule out here that there could be such circuits in public administration that might have sent recommendations to the courts.
I do not rule out that such instructions could have been obtained from a specific section of today’s government, and I do not exclude at all that they could have come from the former authorities. As I said before and I am repeating now: one thing is clear: all robbed money will be returned to the last penny.
By the way, there are other obstacles as well, for example, a case involving a member of the National Assembly, which is already a 100% proven fact. For a couple of months now, we have been awaiting an official response from the National Assembly: the MP who has been involved in a bribery case will be detained the day we have a favorable response from the National Assembly. It is connected with a foreign diplomatic representation and the needed piece of paper has not arrived for three months now. Well, it can take a week or a month instead, but there is no way: the affected MP will be detained, and it will be the biggest ever bribe case in the history of the third Republic that will lead to the detention of other high-ranking officials.
I am saying this to save us the trouble of being asked the same question every time, and you can rest assured that we will never deviate even a millimeter from our stated principles.
For example, two days ago a deputy chief of tax inspectorate was arrested when taking a bribe of 1 million drams. Please tell me who is that person who asks for a bribe in today’s Armenia – can anyone explain it to me?
And in this regard, I want to state the following: yes, the revolution has triumphed, but no change of government has taken place as there is still an official in Armenia who thinks that he can take a bribe, meaning that no change of power has taken place.
The revolution succeeded in 1.5 months, but the change of power is a much more complicated process that is impossible without a new parliament, as most of those officers and officials serving in tax, customs and police authorities have been appointed pursuant to signals that went from here.
Back to the Electoral Code, I would like to address the following question: will the corrupt system have a chance to revenge if the upcoming parliamentary elections take place under the old Electoral Code; the answer is unequivocally not, because the plot and the system itself have been exposed. Keeping in close touch with the public, we will block up the loopholes left for illegal revenge.
The victory of the people in the upcoming parliamentary elections is inevitable, even with the old Electoral Code. I want to emphasize that all corrupt systems in the world have been defeated with their own laws, and there is no authority in the world that has been defeated by someone else’s law. All governments, parliamentary majorities have been defeated by virtue of their own laws.
Just as we succeeded in obtaining Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation under the Constitution written for Serzh Sargsyan, we will get the upper hand of the Republican Party using the laws intended for the RPA to secure the final victory of our revolution and will lay the foundations for an actual change of power.
And although there is an opportunity to amend the Electoral Code by holding an extraordinary session, I want to state the following idea: Dear Republicans, you are being led in the wrong direction, because by holding to the old Electoral Code you do us a great favor, since we want to change the Code so that the electoral process is put into the logic of political debate.
If you keep those revanchist sentiments, whether we want it or not, we will opt for the black and white logic, you will get zero votes, the only chance to politicize as much as possible is to consider the old topic closed and talk about our projects, budget, taxes, issues, economic prospects about which you have enough information?
You will not get through with the Old Electoral Code; your only chance is the amended Electoral Code, the simple proportional list: the higher the tension, the worse for you! You keep stating that the atmosphere should be changed, do you not?
Sharmazanov asks who has built the barricades. You have built them up with your corrupt system, your conspiracy, and your inadequate comments. Note that we feel so confident on the barricades that you want to build. You are free to do so, no problem.
By the way, starting my speech I said that presenting my nomination as prime minister had formal significance. And the idea of nomination is not to miss any opportunity to speculate about the legitimacy of the coming parliamentary elections and rule out any legislative loophole before the upcoming elections.
I want to tell you how and why I decided to come up with my nomination. As you may know, the President of the Republic of Armenia has not signed the notorious amendments made to the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly that caused the October 2 crisis. In this connection, President Sarkissian has already applied to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia.
Now what does this have to do with this situation? We have reliable information that some people are striving to get the Constitutional Court to make a decision that as far as no prime minister has been nominated and no voting has been made, there will be no grounds for dissolving the National Assembly. And this decision might be quickly adopted and could even be passed later that would question the legitimacy of snap elections and create a deadlock.
Article 149 of the Constitution says: “If the prime minister is not elected, a new election shall be held seven days after the vote,” and so on. My nomination is meant to close this issue definitely. I describe this in detail not only to expose our motivations, but also to make an appeal to the former authorities: Gentlemen, give up your current posture and behavior, and eventually put up with the fact that irreversible political changes have occurred in Armenia; the people’s victory has no alternative, and we are past the point of no return.
During the events of October 2, many could see how much effort it took me to calm down the situation, but I still cannot understand those who are trying to construe my politeness and correct stance as a weakness. Is there anyone who needs to make sure of the people’s power?
Do not go that way because you cannot keep the country in an atmosphere of nervousness. The people’s nerves are solid, very solid as evidenced during all this time. You cannot get us off balance, but you can end up annoying the people, I can tell you quite frankly: that is not the right way to go.
I said that a revolution has taken place that should be followed by a change of power in the country, which means that snap parliamentary elections are inevitable. I said that I was striving for early elections not in the interest of our party and our political team, but in the best interest of Armenia. You may rest assured that we will not resort to vote rigging.
I say that I will think of my life as pointless should any election be falsified in Armenia during my tenure. What is going on is not for me, but for each of us; it is for all of us, for anyone willing to engage in politics. This can be a chance for future MPs to seek the people’s approval and not the prime minister’s endorsement. Is that bad? Well, say we won this time, but others will be the winner next time.
At this stage it is in the best interest of all of us to establish and foster an appropriate political culture in Armenia. The revolution happened because election results had been falsified; people will never take to streets should they be convinced that the government can be changed through elections.
I say it again and there is no exaggeration: the day people come to realize that I do not need to be prime minister; I will not stay even a quarter of an hour. In this sense, you see the rationale behind the change of government and the revolution. I can see two approaches in this logic. First of all, those community leaders who think that they have the people’s trust and that there is no doubt about it should resign and be reelected in snap elections. In this way, we can make sure that they enjoy the people’s confidence, and will indeed guarantee that no vote is lost. And secondly, those who call for resignation, even if the community leader does not resign, should work methodically; let them collect the signatures of more than half the voters and submit them to the government for consideration. It is unacceptable and incomprehensible to see five people asking for their community leader’s resignation.
If there were only five or even a few thousand of us in the square, would Serzh Sargsyan step down? Go get your vote and tell us that you were right. What is needed to stick to that chair? My appeal equally refers to the acting community leaders and mayors, and those who are fighting against them.
We cannot stand that nervous atmosphere any longer. During these five months, I made sure and can state quite frankly that there is no point in clinging to power without the people’s trust.
You can express your position or stage a political protest without hurting others’ legitimate rights. When I blocked up a road, I apologized a thousand times to people who could not go that way, and people ended up allowing me to block it up.
I have not seen so far that those blocking up roads apologize to anyone. I am therefore urging you, and I hope you will follow this call because the government is responsible for the smooth functioning of infrastructures.
Frankly, I wanted to address the economic situation, including the Tax Code, foreign policy issues and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process, although the latter was discussed during my meeting with our Lebanese compatriots four days ago. But now, I want to make a call as it has been tense and messy since yesterday: some are worried that I may not be elected prime minister today, while others are anxious about my eventual election as prime minister. I just call on everyone to take another way: we must do away with this atmosphere, with the old chapter and open a new page.
There were some allegations after the Yerevan City Council election, but you saw Kapan’s example where not a single ballot was questioned and could not be falsified because I am the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.
Not a single ballot will be rigged during elections, no matter how important they are for us, for the government and the authorities. Therefore, I am urging you either not to vote for me, or to abstain from voting so that I am not elected prime minister today.