By Harut Sassounian,
Whether I like Armenia’s Prime Minister or not, I want to be fair to him. I praise him when he does something right and criticize him when he does something wrong.
For example, I wrote an article in April 2019 praising Nikol Pashinyan for his speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France. I wrote here: “Pashinyan gave an impressive speech to the representatives of 47 European countries. Even more impressive were the Prime Minister’s answers to their dozen questions. While his speech was prepared in advance, the questions were impromptu and the answers had to be delivered on the spot.”
Pashinyan posted my article on his Facebook page which has over one million followers. Here is the comment he added: “I am happy that one of the most prestigious Diaspora newspapers, The California Courier, has appreciated my speech at PACE.” My article received 4,000 Likes, 197 Shares and 185 comments.
I will now comment on Pashinyan’s speech at the European Parliament on October 17, 2023, in Strasbourg, France.
In his speech, Pashinyan used the word ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’ 21 times to describe Armenia’s current government. He emphasized that democracy provides “security, peace, unity, well-being and happiness?” Regrettably, Armenia does not enjoy these attributes since Artsakh was lost, and Azeri troops have been stationed inside Armenia’s borders since 2021. Armenia’s problems are mostly due to the incompetence of its leader. Pashinyan came to power under the guise of promoting democratic values but ended up violating the basic principles of democracy. What we have in Armenia now is one-man rule. Pashinyan listens to no one, whether ministers, advisers, his party members, the Parliamentary majority or the President. He makes all the decisions by himself. He claimed in his speech that Armenia “would have simply been paralyzed, would have lost its independence and sovereignty if it were not democratic.”
Pashinyan falsely said that his government “did not violate any principle of democracy.” The fact is that Pashinyan has turned Armenia into a police state. When he first came to power, he used to go to the Prime Minister’s office on a bicycle. Now, he hides behind hundreds of policemen before he puts one foot out the door. The policemen, who receive big salaries and bonus payments, beat up and arrest demonstrators. Pashinyan’s political opponents face trumped up charges in court. He has threatened to squash his critics on the asphalt and slam them to the wall. Unbelievably, while campaigning for the parliamentary elections in June 2021, he waved a hammer in the air, threatening to smash the heads of his domestic opponents. Is that democracy?
Even Diaspora Armenians are not immune from the long arm of Pashinyan’s dictatorial regime. Anyone who criticizes him from outside Armenia is banned from entering the country after arriving at the Yerevan Airport. What happened to the democratic principle of freedom of expression?
Pashinyan described Azerbaijan’s May 12, 2021 attack on Armenia as a “provocation that took place before the parliamentary elections… to fail the upcoming parliamentary elections and paralyze the statehood of Armenia, or at least its government.” The fact is that Azerbaijan’s attack on Armenia was unrelated to the Parliamentary elections. Such attacks have taken place before and after the elections. Furthermore, Pres. Aliyev has no reason to topple Pashinyan since he is making endless concessions to Azerbaijan on Artsakh and Armenia.
Pashinyan bragged in his speech that Armenia was able to settle the 100,000 refugees from Artsakh. He claimed that thanks to democracy in Armenia, “We did it honorably.” The fact is that despite the persistent indications for years that Azerbaijan intended to occupy the remainder of Artsakh and force out its inhabitants, the Armenian government made no preparations to settle the refugees in Armenia. Many of them spent days in their cars, deprived of food, water and shelter. As a result, several thousand Artsakhtsis have already left Armenia.
In his speech, Pashinyan explained his readiness to allow Azeri cargo, vehicles, people, pipelines and electricity lines to traverse Armenia’s territory from Azerbaijan proper to its exclave of Nakhichevan. Even though such access is supposed to be reciprocal, as mentioned in the Nov. 9, 2020 agreement, Azerbaijan has never indicated its willingness to allow similar transit for Armenians through Azerbaijan. The same disparity applies to Pashinyan’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territory as 86,600 square kilometers, without Pres. Aliyev agreeing to Pashinyan’s proposed size of Armenia’s territory as 29,800 square kilometers. Pashinyan also conceded that the former Azeri-inhabited enclaves within Armenia belong to Azerbaijan, without Pres. Aliyev accepting a reciprocal exchange.
Finally, Pashinyan repeated his offer to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan by year-end even though there is no necessity for such a treaty as Armenia and Azerbaijan had not declared war on each other. The peace treaty will only serve as an opportunity for Azerbaijan to extract further concessions from Armenia.
Pashinyan concluded his 45-minute speech by repeating the word ‘democracy’ two more times: “I am convinced that democracy can provide peace, security, unity, prosperity and happiness. Let’s prove this together. Long live democracy!”
The European Parliament members were extremely pleased with Pashinyan’s remarks. Why shouldn’t they? Pashinyan is going along with the interests of the West, Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, which is the abandonment of Artsakh, to facilitate the flow of Azerbaijan’s natural gas (partly bought from Russia) to Europe. Besides offering supportive words, European Parliament members are not willing to do anything concrete for Armenia.
I am sure Pashinyan will not post this article on his Facebook page.