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Abstract

he article aims to analyze and characterize changes in Armenia's domestic policy initiated by the reform government led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. In the course of research, the emphasis was placed on the presentation of such issues as the fight against corruption, the reform of the tax system, the fight against poverty and the reform of the judiciary system. It was also extremely important to present the short-term implications of the implemented measures and to discuss the attitude of the society towards the executed reforms, as well as public support for the operations of new political forces. In the light of the results of the research , it is clear that the activity of the post-revolutionary government has significantly changed the domestic policy vector of Arme-nia, bringing the country closer to meeting international democratic standards and strengthening the economic sector.
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T
NATION-BUILDING
ARMENIA’S DOMESTIC POLICY
AFTER THE VELVET REVOLUTION:
SELECTED ISSUES
DOI: https://doi.org/10.37178/ca-c.20.2.06
Agnieszka MIARKA
Ph.D. Candidate (Political Science), M.A. (Political Science).
Research Assistant, the Institute of Political Science, University of Silesia
(Katowice, Poland)
ABSTRACT
he article aims to analyze and charac-
terize changes in Armenia’s domestic
policy initiated by the reform govern-
ment led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
In the course of research, the emphasis was
placed on the presentation of such issues as
the ght against corruption, the reform of the
tax system, the ght against poverty and the
reform of the judiciary system. It was also
extremely important to present the short-
term implications of the implemented mea-
sures and to discuss the attitude of the soci-
ety towards the executed reforms, as well as
public support for the operations of new po-
litical forces.
In the light of the results of the re-
search, it is clear that the activity of the post-
revolutionary government has signicantly
changed the domestic policy vector of Arme-
nia, bringing the country closer to meeting
international democratic standards and
strengthening the economic sector.
KEYWORDS: Armenia, Armenia’s domestic policy, Nikol Pashinyan, reforms.
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Introduction
The Velvet Revolution,1 which took place in Armenia in April-May 2018, was the beginning of
an integral transformation of power structures and vectors of state policy, especially in the eld of
domestic2 policy. As a result of the total shift of power, the best example of which is aorded by the
results of the December 2018 parliamentary elections, the pro-reform block My Step gained complete
dominance in terms of both legislative and executive power3. This made it possible for new political
forces to become active in implementing the demands made during the revolution. The author’s inten-
tion is to answer the following research questions:
Which reforms have been initiated by the Nikol Pashinyan government?
What is the public perception of the government’s actions?
How did the reform eorts aect Armenia’s policy in the short term?
Answers to these questions are essential to the analysis and characterization of the key changes
in Armenia’s domestic policy that were implemented after the revolution. It is important to verify the
hypothesis, which stated that the pro-reform government has acted swiftly to signicantly alter Ar-
menia’s domestic policy. In the course of the research, the methods and techniques specic to social
sciences were used, i.e., secondary analysis of quantitative research, analysis of documents and o-
cial statements of politicians, and deduction.
The post-revolutionary government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has devel-
oped a program of ambitious reforms, successively implemented in Armenia, which aim to bring
the country closer to meeting European requirements for democratization and transparency of the
public sphere. In this context, it is worth noting the government’s program adopted in February
2019. The key objective of the government’s activity was to boost the competitiveness of Arme-
nia’s economy, which is technologically, industrially, environmentally friendly and export-orient-
ed. This assumption is to be achieved through transparency in business, increasing investments,
achieving the economic growth rate of at least 5%, development of tourism and intensication of
exports. Among the priorities the document identies the development of democratic institutions
and the rule of law (an independent judiciary system); the ght against corruption, proper manage-
ment of state nances (primarily emphasizing the importance of an eective tax system), ensuring
a decent and happy life for citizens (i.e., overcoming poverty through work and education).4 In
view of the particular importance of these areas for state welfare, further reection will focus on
these issues.
1 For more on the causes and course of the revolution in Armenia, see: A. Miarka, “Velvet Revolution in Armenia and
its Inuence on State Policy: Selected Aspects,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, Vol. 20, Issue 4, 2019, pp. 41-50; A. Iskan-
daryan, “The Velvet Revolution in Armenia: How to Lose Power in Two Weeks,” Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-
Soviet Democratization, Vol. 26, No. 4, Fall 2018; G. Minassian, “The ‘Velvet Revolution’ in the History of the Armenians,”
Études, December 2018.
2 For more on Armenia’s policy before the Velvet Revolution see: Armenia’s Foreign and Domestic Politics: Develop-
ment Trends, ed. by M. Palonkorpi, A. Iskandaryan, Erevan, 2013; M. Zolyan, “The Poverty of Authoritarianism: What Made
the Armenian Revolution Possible,” in: Protests in Armenia. The Domestic Dimension, ed. by L. Badalyan, available at [https://
www.research-collection.ethz.ch/bitstream/handle/20.500.11850/323671/2/CAD108%281%29.pdf]; N. Borisov, “Potentials
and Limits of Political Competition: Institutional Transformations in Georgia and Armenia in the 2000S”, Central Asia and
the Caucasus, Vol. 16, Issue 3-4, 2015, pp. 17-22.
3 For detailed results of the parliamentary election, see: Sunday, 9 December, 2018 Parliamentary Elections, Central
Electoral Commission of the Republic of Armenia, available in Armenian at [https://www.elections.am/parliamentary/].
4 See: Decision NO 65-A of the 8 February, 2019 on the Program of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, The
Government of the Republic of Armenia, available at [https://www.gov.am/les/docs/3562.pdf].
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Transparency of Authorities and Business:
Fighting Corruption
Since the post-revolutionary government’s activity in shaping Armenia’s domestic policy, the
decision-making center has stressed the need to ght corruption at the highest levels of government
as the prerequisite for success in implementing deep structural changes. During the Prime Minister’s
speech on 7 June, 2018, the importance of separating politics from business and unequivocally
eliminating corruption in the public sector was stressed.5 Recognizing the destructive impact of cor-
ruption on the proper functioning of the state and building trust between the authorities and citizens,
the new political forces have focused their eorts on creating the core agenda for a new approach to
this phenomenon, assuming a complete transformation of Armenia’s anti-corruption system. It was
stressed, among other things, the obligation to establish an independent body with the power to in-
vestigate and operate the necessary tools to expose corruption oences and to ensure transparency
in the economic activity and assets of persons involved in public services.6 The Anti-Corruption
Policy Council chaired by the PM was established in June 2019 to review existing priorities in the
ght against corruption and to overcome corruption. In addition, the elaboration of positions on draft
policies, programs and legislation contributing to the elimination of corruption was identied as a
priority7.
Work on the draft strategy intensied in December 2018 and was prepared with the participation
of civil society organizations and ocials to identify the main pillars of Armenia’s future anti-cor-
ruption policy. The draft was posted on the website of the Ministry of Justice in the same month, but
it quickly aroused numerous objections from international experts8. It is clear that this was one of the
reasons to verify the content of the document9.
During the Government meeting on 3 October, 2019, during which the Anti-Corruption Strat-
egy of Armenia and the Action Plan 2019-2022 were approved, Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan
stressed the importance of establishing an anti-corruption body, i.e., the Commission for the Preven-
tion of Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Committee, while the system of enforcement of legal
standards was undergoing extensive reforms to increase its eectiveness. A single body responsible
for detecting and investigating corruption oences—the Anti-Corruption Committee—is slated to be
established in 2021.10
The adopted document clearly sets forth the fundamental principles on which the anti-corrup-
tion policy will be based:
5 See: “Speech Delivered by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan while Introducing the Government Program to the Na-
tional Assembly of the Republic of Armenia,” available at [https://www.primeminister.am/en/statements-and-messages/
item/2018/06/07/Nikol-Pashinyan-Speech-National-Assembly/].
6 See: Decision NO 65-A of the 8 February, 2019 on the Program of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, The
Government of the Republic of Armenia, available at [https://www.gov.am/les/docs/3562.pdf].
7 See: Decision No 808-N of 24 June, 2019 on Establishing an Anti-Corruption Policy Council..., The Government of
the Republic of Armenia, available at [https://www.gov.am/les/docs/3518.pdf].
8 In January 2019, Transparency International specialists, in an ocial statement, made a number of comments indicat-
ing that the course of work on the document, as well as its structure and content, raise a number of objections (see: “Statement
on Draft RA Anticorruption Strategy and its Implementation Action Plan 2019-2022,” Transparency International Anticorrup-
tion Center, available at [https://transparency.am/en/news/view/2596]; “2019-2022 Anti-Corruption Strategy Discussed, Goals
Mentioned,” available at [https://www.aysor.am/en/news/2018/12/19/anti-corruption/1505560].
9 See: “Newspaper: Armenia Develops New Anticorruption Action Plan,” News.am, available at [https://news.am/eng/
news/517674.html].
10 See: “Eective Anticorruption Institutions to Be Set Up in Armenia, Including an Anticorruption Committee,” The
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, available at [https://www.primeminister.am/en/press-release/item/2019/10/03/
Cabinet-meeting/].
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(1) disclosing cases of corruption-related crimes;
(2) initiating preventive measures;
(3) educational activities and raising public awareness (Point 90 of the Strategy).
The Strategy focuses on developing an institutional framework for responding to corrupt ac-
tivities. The above-mentioned Commission for the Prevention of Corruption deserves attention. The
tasks of this body include: monitoring the implementation of an anti-corruption strategy; furthering
anti-corruption education and coordinating its implementation; developing programs to raise public
awareness; carrying out evaluations of the legal eects of anti-corruption acts and their projects.11
Given the broad spectrum of the Commission’s competences, it should be considered an extremely
important (and necessary) element in the new policy for the elimination of corruption in Armenia.
It is worth remembering that even before the development of new formal guidelines for prevent-
ing and combating corruption, Pashinyan initiated a policy of uncompromisingly combating corrup-
tion at the highest levels of government, starting with accounting for the oenses of the old regime.
One of the priority cases in this regard was to punish those guilty of the use of rearms by the secu-
rity forces against participants in the demonstration of 1 March, 2008.12 In connection with this case,
former President Robert Kocharyan was arrested in July 2018 and charged with trying to overthrow
the constitutional system, as well as accepting nancial benets. The president was released several
times and arrested again in connection with this case.13
From September 2019 onwards, the dynamics of the trial of the former president could be fol-
lowed. In line with the ruling of the Constitutional Court (CC) on the conformity of Art 35 and Part
2 of Art 135 of the Criminal Procedure Code with the Constitution of Armenia at the request of the
Kocharyan, the quoted articles were found to be unconstitutional.14 The ruling argued that the indict-
ment ignores the immunity of current and former senior ocials from prosecution for activities re-
lated to their position.15 Citing the opinion of the CC, the former President’s counsel applied to the
Erevan District Court for release from custody and acquittal in connection with the events of 2008.
Judge Anna Danibekyan rejected the motion on 17 September.16 Kocharyan’s supporters point to the
politically motivated decision of the court, which was under pressure from the PM, undermining the
independence of the judiciary. In fact, the Prime Minister took an intransigent stance on the need to
nalize the case of Kocharyan. Suggestions have been put forward that undermine the legitimacy of
the CC’s verdict, and the leading representatives of the governmental party My Step postulated the
dismissal of the President of the Court.17
The indictment of the former President of Armenia is unprecedented, but it deepens the fear of
using the anti-corruption vector for the complete elimination of political rivals, motivated by particu-
lar interests and the desire to continue to hold on to the power of the My Step party, rather than
merely the desire to remove the old political agreements in order to strengthen justice in Armenia.
11 See: Decision on Approving the Republic of Armenia Anti-Corruption Strategy and its Implementation Action Plan
for 2019-2022, Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, available at [http://www.justice.am/storage/les/pages/
pg_7105326429691_Anti-Corruption_Strategy_03.10.2019_ENG.pdf].
12 See: “Armenia Clamps Down after Post-Election Violence,” The New York Times, available at [https://www.
nytimes.com/2008/03/02/world/europe/02iht-armenia.4.10626008.html].
13 See: A. Miarka, op. cit., pp. 47-48.
14 See: Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia on the Case of Conformity of Art 35 and Part
2 of Article 135..., The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia, available at [http://concourt.am/english/decisions/
common/pdf/1476.pdf].
15 Ibidem.
16 See: “Erevan Court Refuses to Free Kocharyan,” The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, available at [https://mirrorspectator.
com/2019/09/19/Erevan-court-refuses-to-free-kocharyan/].
17 Ibidem.
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The crackdown on political predecessors also concerned another former Armenian president,
Serzh Sargsyan. In early December 2019, the Special Investigation Service accused the President of
embezzling state funds.18 The trial of politicians who used to hold the highest positions in the state is
intended to demonstrate Pashinyan’s determination to completely transform Armenian political life.
Furthermore, it builds the PM’s position in the perception of Armenian citizens as an eective, con-
sistent, trustworthy politician and, above all, without any connections with preceding political au-
thorities. This is proven by a public opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute
(IRI) in 2019. Its results conrm strong support for the government’s anti-corruption eorts: as many
as 70% of respondents believe that the ght against corruption is eective, and 66% that the govern-
ment is taking sucient action in this area.19
Pashinyan is aware that the degeneration of the ruling elite, nepotism and corruption were
among the key reasons for the growing social frustration in Armenia, which led to the outbreak of the
Velvet Revolution. By demonstrating a tenacious attitude towards cases of corruption, he is building
his popularity on the polarization of us (forces initiating in-depth political reforms) vs. them (corrupt,
authoritarian governments), completely cutting itself o from the political vector created by the re-
publican forces.
State Financial Management:
Tax Reform
As already mentioned, the Government is committed to creating a comprehensive, competitive
and export-oriented economy in Armenia that meets all international standards. In addition to the
multi-faceted ght against corruption, which is one of the obstacles to the proper functioning of the
country’s economic sphere, other tools have been set in place to strengthen the international position
of the Armenian economy. In this context, it is impossible not to mention the highly emotionally
charged tax reform. Legislative changes to the State Tax Code have been formulated to enable the
transition from a progressive to a linear system of income taxation, among other things. Prior to the
start of work on the amendment of the Code, the Minister of Finance commissioned a study to diag-
nose the state of the Armenian economy. The much lower protability of export-oriented economic
sectors was noted as an alarming trend, by 40-45% compared to sectors focusing only on domestic
consumption.20 In order to strengthen Erevan’s economic competitiveness, the country had to focus
on issues beyond domestic consumption, so Armenia’s political forces have developed proposals to
amend the Tax Code to stimulate the country’s exports, which is a key reason for the government’s
actions.
The tax reform package, which stipulated for the transition from 1 January, 2020 to a at-rate
tax set at 23% regardless of the income received, as well as the reduction of the turnover tax, was
adopted on 25 June, 2019, with the opposition of members of the Prosperous Armenia faction and the
approval of the dominant My Step party. Politicians expect that the changes adopted will lead to an
18 For more details, see: “Former President Serge Sarkisian Charged with Embezzlement,” The Armenian Weekly,
available at [https://armenianweekly.com/2019/12/04/former-president-serzh-sargsyan-charged-with-embezzlement/].
19 See: “New Poll: Armenians Support Anti-Corruption Measures, Want Action on Socioeconomic Concerns,”
International Republican Institute, available at [https://www.iri.org/resource/new-poll-armenians-support-anti-corruption-
measures-want-action-socioeconomic-concerns].
20 See: N. Badalian, “Armenian Parliament Adopted Amendments to Tax Code: Changes are Aimed at Improving the
Competitiveness of the National Economy,” Financial Portal ArmInfo, available at [https://finport.am/full_news.
php?id=38733&lang=3].
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additional 0.8% GDP growth and a 0.5% increase in employment.21 Despite optimistic forecasts, such
a profound transformation of the system is arousing controversy among part of Armenian society. It
is worth noting the report prepared by a number of economists for Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung during the
debates on changes. They argue that the functioning of the at tax will lead to budget losses during
the rst year in the amount of AMD 27-37 billion, and the society fears that the government will still
have to raise taxes in a few years’ time due to numerous challenges for the economy.22 The govern-
ment will certainly want to mitigate the negative consequences of decreasing budget revenues by
increasing indirect taxation on such goods as alcohol, cigarettes or gambling, among other measures.
It seems that the source of social unrest may lay, among other things, in the inadequate information
campaign indicating the positive aspects of the reform. Moreover, the key economic powers, such as
Germany, maintain a progressive system. On the other hand, Eastern European countries that strug-
gled with similar problems as Armenia in the 1990s, e.g. Lithuania, are successfully using the linear
system. Given the long-term implications of the changes implemented and the importance for Arme-
nia’s economy, the consequences should be monitored.
Fight against Poverty:
Employment and Education
One of the consequences of Armenia’s longstanding economic collapse is the high poverty rate
in the country. According to the Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia, the poverty
level was 23.5% in 2018, while the percentage of the extremely poor was estimated at 1% of the
population. This data means that the number of people living in poverty was about 700,000, i.e.,
1 in 4 citizens of Armenia was considered poor. In turn, the unemployment rate was 20.5% in that
year.23 The protests that led to the Velvet Revolution and the complete shift of the authorities in the
country were strongly motivated by the low level of the citizens’ prosperity, the lack of adequate
public services and insucient concern for the change of these trends shown by the Republican
Party of Armenia.
The problem of poverty is one of the most important domestic policy issues facing Nikol Pash-
inyan’s government in Armenia. It is worth noting that mitigating this phenomenon will strengthen
the position and conrm the eectiveness of the government. Poverty involves a number of factors,
not all of them material, i.e., the wealth of the society (associated with satisfactory employment), but
also, for example, the quality of social assistance and the education system. The decision-making
center in Erevan emphasizes the importance of these factors in the conceptual framework of the
struggle with poverty.
One of the fundamental assumptions is the creation of new jobs, which can be achieved by en-
couraging the business sector to invest more and increase the number of establishments in the country.
During the meeting with entrepreneurs in November 2018, the Prime Minister already expressed the
hope that the economic revolution initiated by the government will lead to an improvement of the busi-
ness environment, through transparency, separation of the political sphere from business and support
21 See: “Parliament Ends Work of Extraordinary Session,” National Assembly of Republic of Armenia, available at [http://
www.parliament.am/news.php?cat_id=2&NewsID=11786&year=2019&month=06&day=25&lang=eng]; N. Badalian, op. cit.
22 For more on this, see: “Amendments to the Tax Code in the Light of the Reasons for, and Consequences of, the 2018
Revolution in Armenia,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, available at [http://library.fes.de/pdf-les/bueros/georgien/15471.pdf].
23 See: “Armenia—Poverty Snapshot over 2002-2018,” Statistical Committee of Republic of Armenia, pp. 32, 34, 36,
available at [https://www.armstat.am/le/article/poverty_2019_english_2.pdf].
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by the state for start-ups related to the advanced technologies, among other things.24 In turn, in Decem-
ber 2018, Deputy PM Ararat Mirzoyan emphasized that the implemented investment reliefs will result
in the creation of about 900 new jobs for Armenians.25 The reforming government has fullled its
promises in this aspect, because over 65,000 new jobs were created between May 2018 and September
2019, which implies a 12-percent increase in the generation of new employment opportunities26.
In the education sector, the reformist government emphasizes the need to adapt the education
system to labor market needs. In September 2019, the Education-to-Work Program was launched. It
is the response of Erevan to the challenge of unemployment and the changing perception of education.
The need to evaluate the labor market and to develop an educational oer based on the results, while
at the same time teaching soft competences, which are desired by employers, such as teamwork skills
or creative thinking, was articulated.27 In the context of the success of educational reforms, it is worth
remembering the support of the European Union (in various forms, e.g. nancial or advisory), which
is important for a country as small as Armenia. The Torino Process, an initiative of the European
Training Foundation, should be mentioned. The Foundation supports the EU neighboring countries
in the process of improving the educational system and labor policy. Torino is a tool for verifying the
eectiveness of the implemented national educational program reforms. Erevan has been cooperating
with the Foundation since 2010, which has enabled a relatively high increase in the quality of ser-
vices in this sector in relation to the rather modest funds allocated to education28.
The exibility oered by the Armenian government in shaping the educational system and
adapting it to Western standards should undoubtedly be considered a positive vector of the country’s
internal policy, but not all the novelties are acceptable to a conservative society. The Ministry of
Education, Science, Culture and Sport, headed by Arayik Harutyunyan, has submitted a draft reform
of On Higher Education and Science, which abolishes compulsory teaching in subjects such as Ar-
menian language, Armenian literature and history. The proposed changes caused indignation among
students and academic sta of some universities, such as the Erevan State University, where students
initiated demonstrations in November 2019 to protest against the reform, demanding Harutyunyan’s
resignation.29 It is worth remembering, however, that the project that stipulates for the freedom of
higher education institutions in providing optional subjects does not prohibit their inclusion in the
mandatory curriculum. In the perception of some, these actions will blur the Armenian identity and
threaten internal security. What is noteworthy is that the changes in the education sector have been
used by the political opposition as propaganda, since the youth faction of the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation Party (Dashnaktsutyun) was behind the protests. The opponents of the post-revolutionary
political forces want to emphasize the negative impact of modern trends and values promoted by the
Government on the Armenian tradition. Therefore, the Government should pay attention to the soci-
ety’s attachment to certain values that have been building the unity of citizens and the state for years,
so that reforms are not perceived as an attempt to impose foreign patterns of civilization. Such think-
24 See: “Nikol Pashinyan: ‘Armenia is to Become a Country Where Major Businesses Will Never Get Smaller, and the
Smaller Ones Will Grow into Medium-Size Entities and So On’,” The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, available
at [https://www.primeminister.am/en/statements-and-messages/item/2018/11/21/Nikol-Pashinyan-speech/].
25 For more details, see: “Privileges Provided Under New Investment Projects: Over 900 Jobs to Be Created in Arme-
nia,” available at [https://www.gov.am/en/news/item/9460/].
26 See: “100 Facts about New Armenia-2”—PM Nikol Pashinyan’s Introductory Remarks at His Press Conference,”
available at [https://www.primeminister.am/en/interviews-and-press-conferences/item/2019/09/16/Nikol-Pashinyan-Press-
Conference/].
27 See: “Tigran Avinyan Attends Launch of Education-to-Work Program,” available at [https://www.gov.am/en/news/
item/9581/].
28 See: “EU and Armenia for Better Education Reforms,” The European Training Foundation, available at [https://www.
etf.europa.eu/en/news-and-events/news/eu-and-armenia-better-education-reforms].
29 See: “Student Protests Continue Over the Proposed Education Reform Bill in Armenia,” Caucasus Watch, available
at [https://caucasuswatch.de/news/2200.html].
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CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS English Edition Volume 21 Issue 2 2020
ing may result in a drastic drop in public support for a reforming government that initiates such im-
portant structural reforms.
Both the Education-to-Work Program and the On Higher Education and Science reform project
should be considered adequate responses to the weaknesses of the higher education system in Arme-
nia, which prove that the post-revolutionary government wants to comply with international demands.
Areas of concern to the education system have been identied by many international organizations.
It is worth noting the report of October 2019 prepared by employees of The World Bank as part of
The Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) initiative. Experts warn, among other
things, that the current regulatory framework does not create equal opportunities for all entities, with
private universities enjoying greater autonomy in terms of decision making and nancing than public
universities. Moreover, the experts stress that the current educational oer is not adapted to the needs
of the labor market.30 Therefore, the vector of educational policy created by the Pashinyan govern-
ment is not only an unfounded pursuit of Western patterns, but also an arguable need for transforma-
tions in this sphere, which may constitute an eective long-term tool for combating poverty.
Rule of Law:
Reform of the Judiciary
During the Velvet Revolution, Pashinyan pointed out the need for fundamental changes in the
functioning of Armenia. By gaining a majority in the National Assembly, the reformers managed to
dominate the structures of the legislative and executive power, but the third pillar of statehood, the
judiciary, is a problematic area for the implementation of changes. According to the PM’s perception,
there is a need for an independent and transparent judicial system, which would eliminate the possibil-
ity of restoration of oligarchs in political and business structures as part of the establishment of
democratic standards and the rule of law in Armenia. As already mentioned, Kocharyan’s case arous-
es strong emotions and is seen as a political issue. The General Prosecutor’s Oce has opened
criminal proceedings against David Grigoryan, judge at the Court of First Instance in Erevan, who
released Kocharyan from pre-trial detention (May 2019); post-revolutionary political forces are also
demanding the resignation of the President of the CC, who referred the case of the former President
to the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe31.
After Kocharyan’s release from custody in May, N. Pashinyan called on his supporters to block
the courts in an act of opposition to the court decision. The PM also repeatedly stressed the need to
remove from oce those members of the CC, who were elected by the preceding political forces and
were part of the old political regime, which was overthrown by the Velvet Revolution. In his statement
on the judicial system in May 2019, he pointed out that the judiciary branch has lost its social legiti-
macy and is perceived by the people as a relic of the corrupt old system. He argued that the political
system and the judiciary branch had previously been strongly intertwined, which does not guarantee
that the current judges are able to objectively conduct judicial proceedings related to the 2008 events.
At the same time, the shortcomings of the system undermine the eectiveness of the ght against cor-
ruption. Moreover, the PM has spoken out directly about the need to vet judges, so that the public has
information about their political stand and the size of their assets, and all judges who have been found
30 For more details, see: Armenia: Tertiary Education, SABER Country Report, October 2019, The World Bank,
available at [https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/32631/Saber-Tertiary-Education-Country-Report-
Armenia-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y].
31 See: E.Y. Azadian, “Challenges to Armenia’s Judicial Reforms,” available at [https://mirrorspectator.com/2019/08/01/
challenges-to-armenias-judicial-reforms/].
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Volume 21 Issue 2 2020 CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS English Edition
by the European Court of Human Rights to be committing gross human rights violations should resign
or be removed from oce32. On the one hand, the government sees these solutions as putting forth a
group of impartial judges who can adjudicate in accordance with international standards, on the other
hand—it should be remembered that the members of the CC were elected in accordance with the con-
stitutional provisions of the Republic of Armenia and their term of oce should not be questioned in
any way due to the political rotation in the country.33 Any pressure on judges may pose a serious threat
to the success of the judiciary reform and may be used by Pashinyan’s adversaries, allowing them to
claim that the post-revolutionary forces want to subjugate the judiciary branch, which is a manifesta-
tion of the new forces’ authoritarianism, a phenomenon that also characterizes their predecessors.
It seems that the opinions of international organizations that support Armenia in implementing
reforms to democratize political life, such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, should be decisive in determining the correctness
of the initiated changes. In this context, the opinion of the Venice Commission, which provides advice
to countries on constitutional law, deserves special attention. This opinion indicates that the reform
package prepared by the Ministry of Justice is praiseworthy, developed with due care and respect for
European standards, while not compromising the independence of the judiciary branch. The experts
also pointed out the issues that required more elaboration, e.g. the need to create constitutional mech-
anisms allowing for an appeal against the Supreme Judicial Council’s decisions on disciplinary is-
sues. In turn, there was no reason to initiate vetting activities.34 Moreover, international actors will
provide the center of power in Erevan with strong support. The government’s actions are assessed
positively, as evidenced, for example, by the statement of the Head of the EU Delegation in Armenia
Andrea Wiktorin made in September 2019, which claimed that the EU welcomes the government’s
work in developing a strategy and implementing judicial reforms. In July 2019, Donald Tusk, Presi-
dent of the European Council, underlined that the EU will provide nancial and technical support to
Armenia for the implementation of reforms.35 Undoubtedly, the Armenian justice system needs multi-
faceted reforms, implemented with respect for internal law and EU standards and approval of the
public, which should be informed by the government about the actions taken and their purpose.
Conclusion:
Implications of Reforms and Public Support
An assessment of whether the reform package implemented since the beginning of the Govern-
ment’s activity has brought the expected results is required. It should be stressed that it is only pos-
sible to examine the short-term implications of changes in Armenia’s domestic policy, since a com-
prehensive characterization of their impact will be possible only after they are fully implemented.
32 See: “Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Statement on Judiciary System,” The Prime Minister of the Republic of
Armenia, available at [https://www.primeminister.am/en/statements-and-messages/item/2019/05/20/Nikol-Pashinyan-
Speech/].
33 The procedure for the election of members of the Constitutional Court is laid down in Art 166 of the Constitution of
the Republic of Armenia: Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, available at [https://www.president.am/en/
constitution-2015/%20-%3E].
34 See: Armenia. Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission (...) on the Amendments to the Judicial Code and Some other
Laws, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), pp. 17-18, available at [https://www.venice.
coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdle=CDL-AD(2019)024-e].
35 See: “EU Rearms Support for Judicial Reforms in Armenia,” available at [https://www.azatutyun.am/a/30187494.
html]; “Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his Meeting with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan,” available at
[https://www.consilium.europa.eu/pl/press/press-releases/2019/07/10/remarks-by-president-donald-tusk-after-his-meeting-
with-prime-minister-of-armenia-nikol-pashinyan/].
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CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS English Edition Volume 21 Issue 2 2020
Nevertheless, certain trends caused, among other factors, by the aforementioned changes in domestic
policy-making, can already be observed.
According to World Bank data, Armenia’s GDP grew by 7.9% year-on-year in the third quarter
of 2019. Notably, despite the stagnation of exports at the beginning of the year, it contributed 0.7
percentage point to the country’s GDP. The ination rate fell from 2.5% (2018) to 1.8% (August
2019). This lowered the level of poverty: the average poverty level decreased to 10.8% (2018), which
is the best result attained since 2010. Real wages increased by 1.5% in 2018 and the upward trend
continued in 2019. Positive trends in the economic sector contributed to a change in estimated real
GDP growth to 6.8% in December 2019 (from 5.5% in mid-year).36 The reforms initiated by Pashin-
yan’s government have undeniably brought the expected results for the Armenian economy in the
short term. This is also conrmed by Armenia’s advancement in international rankings: it was ranked
41st in the Doing Business 2019 (47th in 2018) and 64th in the Global Innovation Index 2019 (68th
in 2018).37 Although some of the reforms being implemented raise fears and controversies, they are
required for the power center in Erevan on the way to implementing revolutionary demands—increas-
ing the welfare of citizens, transparency of the authorities and eliminating the aws of the former
system (oligarchy, nepotism, coupling of business and politics, corruption).
Finally, it should be considered whether, despite the courageous actions of PM Pashinyan in
establishing the domestic policy vector, he can count on such high support of Armenian citizens as
during the Velvet Revolution, thanks to which the reformist party My Step gained power in the coun-
try. In this context, the results of the research carried out by the IRI in July-August 2018 and May
2019 are of great interest. In the rst case, as many as 83% of respondents positively assessed the new
government. Importantly, 63% of respondents expected the required reforms in the country to be
initiated quickly. In turn, the 2019 survey also conrms strong support for the Pashinyan government,
but with a downward trend: 72% of respondents are satised with the government’s work. It should
be emphasized that the society’s expectations remain unchanged in relation to the rapid initiation of
economic and political reforms by the executive branch (still over 60% of respondents).38 Undoubt-
edly, Pashinyan’s policy vector’s is a good response to people’s expectations for the dynamics of
change: some reforms have been initiated very quickly, but it should be remembered that changes in
such spheres as the judiciary branch should be evolutionary in order to have an appropriate eect. The
evolving political powers need to take measures with positive implications that are tangible to the
people, Then, these powers will be able to maintain a high level of support and strengthen their posi-
tion on the political scene. However, leading decision-makers should be aware of the need to conduct
an appropriate information campaign to raise public awareness of the legitimacy and objectives of the
changes being initiated. This may lead to the susceptibility of the people to the campaigns held by the
oppositions that seek to discredit the government.
36 See: A. Manookian, Armenia Monthly Economic Update—December 2019, available at [http://pubdocs.worldbank.
org/en/699271576482576286/AM-MEU-Dec19.pdf]; [https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/armenia/overview].
37 [https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/media/Annual-Reports/English/DB2019-report_web-
version.pdf]; [https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/media/Annual-Reports/English/DB2018-Full-Re-
port.pdf]; [https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2019-report#]; [https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/userles/le/
reportpdf/gii_2018-report-new.pdf].
38 See: “New Poll: Armenians Optimistic About Future, New Government,” available at [https://www.iri.org/resource/
new-poll-armenians-optimistic-about-future-new-government]; “New Armenia Poll: High Public Condence in Government;
Enduring Economic Concerns,” available at [https://www.iri.org/resource/new-armenia-poll-high-public-condence-govern-
ment-enduring-economic-concerns].
Article
The aim of the article is to analyze Armenia’s limited capacity to function as a patron of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). In the article, the author focused on the analysis of 3 levels of relations on the line Yerevan-Stepanakert: (1) the political dimension of bilateral relations; (2) the economic dimension of bilateral relations; (3) the security policy dimension, in particular the significance of the last phase of the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (2020) for the further shape of relations. In addition, the features that distinguish Armenia’s relations with the NKR from Russia’s relations with the de facto states for which it is a patron are highlighted. The results prove that mid-level states have a limited capacity to be a patron for de facto states, including being a guarantor of their survival.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.