Parliament Endorses Government Program

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s newly formed government received a vote of confidence in parliament on Wednesday as lawmakers overwhelmingly endorsed its five-year policy program.
The program, which incorporates elemen’s of initiatives from the four political parties in the governing coalition, was voted on Wednesday after two days of deliberation in the National Assembly. It was approved with a vote of 88 to 3. Four of the five political parties represented in the National Assembly endorsed the program, with Heritage, the only opposition party in parliament voting against it.
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan thanked parliament for the suggestions and remarks presented during deliberations. He also thanked the Heritage party for the "moral support to the new government."
Heritage had said earlier it would not vote for the program because it wants a program of actions that would enforce systematic changes, but said it would help the government correct its shortcomings regardless. "The National Assembly is ready to fully assist the government in the implementation of this program," Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosian said after the vote.
"I want to assure everyone that you won’t find any difference between our actions and words," Sargsyan told lawmakers.
At the heart of his government’s policy agenda are President Serzh Sarkisian’s pledges to implement "second-generation reforms" that would strengthen the rule of law in Armenia and improve its flawed business environment. The government says such reforms, as well as continued low inflation and budgetary deficits are essential for maintaining the country’s strong economic growth.
Sargsyan also outlined his coalition cabinet’s political agenda as he presented the program to parliament on Tuesday. He vowed to strive to unite a nation deeply divided over the conduct of last February’s presidential election and the ensuing dramatic developmen’s.
"We won’t be looking for circumstances that have divided us in the past and will instead try to uncover future-oriented ideas uniting us," he said. "We ourselves will expose our own shortcomings and failings and publicly talk about them. We have to be tough, audacious and just."
The 48-year-old premier said his government will be open to "constructive criticism" but will not put up with "destructive anti-state steps" taken by its radical opponents. By the same token, he added, the government will be responsive to media criticism, while being more assertive in "defending honest officials against lies and defamation."
Sargsyan further stated that Yerevan will not "blindly follow" European standards for democracy and human rights. In a separate conversation with journalists he spoke of "values that do not befit the Armenian person, the Christian person" but declined to specify them.
"Human rights, freedom of speech are not European values, they are Armenian values," he said, advising reporters to look into the works of a medieval Armenian clergyman. "The artificial notion that we must embrace the European value system is offensive," continued Sarkisian. "It is offensive to every person who considers himself an Armenian and has dignity because the European value system should be anchored in the Christian value system. And yet today we can see many deviations from that value system."

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