YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)–A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation launched stinging verbal attacks on the government as his party began its parliamentary election campaign on Monday.
Armen Rustamyan said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government may be trying to “replace old political and economic monopolies with new ones.” Rustamyan also claimed that Pashinyan is reluctant to limit sweeping prime-ministerial powers which he strongly criticized before coming to power in May.
Pashinyan voiced the criticism during Armenia’s controversial transition from a presidential to parliamentary system of government initiated by former President Serzh Sarkisian. He said that constitutional changes will give the prime minister too many powers at the expense of the ruling cabinet.
“We have still not abandoned what they described as a ‘super-prime-ministerial system,’” Rustamyan said at a campaign rally held by the ARF in downtown Yerevan. “We also don’t have guarantees that if [Pashinyan and his team] try to reinforce their power that will not lead to the super-prime-ministerial system’s transformation into a super-presidential system.”
Rustamyan went on to accuse the new government of courting “oligarchs” that enjoyed privileged treatment by the Sarkisian administration. “It turns out that they are not oligarchs anymore,” he said. “It turns out that they are simply rich people, successful entrepreneurs. Probably because they have become allies [of the new government.]”
Rustamyan further claimed that those tycoons retain their “dominant positions” in lucrative sectors of the Armenian economy contrary to Pashinyan’s assurances that all economic monopolies in the country have been broken up. “It is claimed that there are no monopolies, probably because those monopolies are now showing their loyalty and are ready to serve the new authorities,” he said.
The ARF was officially allied to Sarkisian during the last two years of his decade-long rule. A power-sharing agreement signed in 2016 gave it three ministerial posts in the former government.
The ARF reached a similar deal with Pashinyan after mass protests led by him forced Sarkisian to resign as prime minister in April. The de facto coalition collapsed in October, with Pashinyan accusing the ARF and another partner, the Prosperous Armenia Party, of collaborating with Sarkisian’s Republican Party.
The ARF holds seven seats in Armenia’s outgoing parliament. Analysts believe that its main objective in the December 9 snap elections is to win at least 5 percent of the vote needed for being represented in the new National Assembly.