YEREVAN—Hundreds of thousands of people crowded Yereven’s Republic Square and the adjacent streets on Friday to hear Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s assessment of his government’s first 100 days in office. In a fiery speech that lasted more than an hour, Pashinyan defended his and his government track record and delivering an all-encompassing speech that covered Armenia’s economy, Artsakh and the Karabakh conflict resolution, fight against corruption and relations with Russia.
In opening his remarks, he, once again declared a “people’s rule,” crediting the people of Armenia for the successes of his government and the country.
“One hundred days ago, your will prevailed and the international community still cannot understand what happened in Armenia, why and how it happened,” said Pashinyan calling himself a “direct representative of the will of the Armenian people.”
“In Armenia, there is no coalition government. In Armenia, there is no parliamentary majority. In Armenia, the ultimate power directly belongs to the people and the people carry out direct rule. This is the key meaning of the revolution that took place in Armenia,” he declared pointing to the crowd and saying that they should view themselves as “supreme body of the people’s rule.”
“This means that from now on this government will be accountable to this square, will obey this square, and all key decisions must be made here at this square,” said Pashinyan to thunderous applause.
Specifically focusing on his role in the Karabakh conflict negotiation process and in an attempt to debunk criticism, especially from former president Robert Kocharian, Pashinyan emphasized that he is ready to negotiate, on behalf of Armenia, for the resolution of the conflict. However, he reiterated his long-running position that the Artsakh Republic must be represented at the negotiating table.
“I am ready to fully negotiate on behalf of the Republic of Armenia on Karabakh issue, but the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh must negotiate on behalf of Artsakh,” Pashinyan emphasized.
The prime minister was clear in declaring that Armenia does not want war and would like to resolve the conflict peacefully. He said, however, that if Azerbaijan continues its attacks, the soldiers of the armed forces are ready to deliver a powerful counter blow to their advances.
“If in the negotiation process there is an option that I will think is a good one and I support, I will never sign any document without your consent. I will present whatever proposal there is to you in detail and you will decide if we will accept that resolution option not,” added Pashinyan.
The prime minister specifically discussed Armenia’s relations with Russia, as this topic has been used by Kocharian and others in attempts to discredit his administration.
In an interview with Yerkir Media on Thursday, Kocharian point blank said that Pashinyan does not have the experience to deal with Russia, as well as the complex geopolitical challenges facing Armenia.
Pointing out that since taking office he has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice and has discussed issues related to Russia-Armenia relations with him over the phone three times (the most recent of which was Thursday), Pashinyan said that his administration’s goal is to improve and strengthen relations with Russia and raise them to a new level.
In fact, he said, in the near future, a new “humanitarian” project with Russia will be unveiled, “the likes of which has not been seen in Armenia” since its independence.
“There will be no foreign policy shifts and one of our goals is the deepening of Armenian-Russian relations and raising these relations to a new level. After formal proceedings conclude you will get to know about a joint Armenian-Russian humanitarian project which is unprecedented in our history since independence,” explained Pashinyan.
Pashinyan said that his predecessors were adept at blaming their shortcomings on Russia, rationalizing their mistakes by citing Russian pressures.
He also noted that Armenia’s foreign policy has no geopolitical orientation. “The Republic of Armenia is not going anywhere. It is firmly standing on its feet with its proud citizens. Our key ideology in foreign relations is the protection of our national interests. We will improve our relations also with the European Union,” added Pashinyan.
Corruption/Rule of Law
Pashinyan said that his pledges to eradicate corruption have already seen some progress with the Armenia’s National Security Service actively investigation cases of looted property and funds not only from the state but also the military.
“Money stolen from the people will be recovered fully,” he said, citing recent audits of some companies that have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue.
He also discussed the ongoing investigation into the incidents of March 1, 2008 when opposition forces clashed with police during a post-election protest resulting in the deaths of eight civilians and two police officers.
Former president Kocharian is charged with breaching Armenia’s constitutional order in relation to those events and after being released from pre-trial custody on Monday he has criticized the Prosecutor General’s office of building a case on lies.
In a clear reference to Kocharian, Pashinyan said: “I want to make clear that no one will avoid responsibility for killing 10 people and staging a coup d’etat in Armenia on March 1  … All murderers will go to prison.”
He illustrated the difference between his administration and the previous regimes by pointing out that he is not exerting any pressure on the judiciary. However, he criticized certain judges whom he believes are still taking “orders from representatives of the former corrupt authorities.”
“Come to your senses,” he warned them. “And don’t mess with the people.”