Nikol Pashinyan: PR instead of serious politics

Nikol Pashinyan: PR instead of serious politics

The question of what the revolutionary Armenian government is really up to is now new. There were many promises: economic growth, the ruthless fight against corruption, the repatriation of compatriots to their historical homeland, and finally, a breakthrough in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. But any transformation requires stability, which is not promised by current Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who hopes to continue the revolutionary struggle, spreading it far beyond the borders of the republic.

Pashinyan’s rating is gradually declining, and he is trying to regain his former popularity, including through PR campaigns. The recent campaign, during which Nikol Pashinyan traveled around Yerevan on a bus with foreign tourists as a guide during working hours, left the Armenian public perplexed. This caused people to suspect that the Prime Minister is bored doing nothing or, using his professional experience as the editor of the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper, is "editing" his own political career, instead of reforming the same tourism sector. Today, according to some reports, the annual influx of tourists into Armenia does not exceed one and a half million people.

The highlight of the new government's political image - high-profile information headlines. The current government can afford to declare the transition to free medical service for all minors, conduct judicial reform as soon as possible, and get rid of dishonest judges and corrupt officials. However, the fulfillment of these promises remains in question. Pashinyan feels much more comfortable in the role of a blogger politician, than working in the prime minister’s office and wearing business-style clothing. The prime minister pretends to be modern, up to date on world trends, he broadcasts on Facebook Live and quickly mobilizes the active part of the population at the right time and place. Pashinyan’s demonstrative openness allows him to stand out from the typical Armenian politicians who prefer not to mention their residences, incomes or living conditions. "Money loves silence" is more than a centuries-old wisdom for politicians-businessmen in a republic with a semi-blockade economy. Stressing his engagement with the people, demonstrating the absence of any barriers, Pashinyan continues to use the image of a street tribune, while his electorate is still in a state of regular processions, anxiety and uncertainty mixed with a demonstration of vigorous activity.

There is a complex clan system in Armenia. In order to oppose it, Pashinyan needs to enlist the support of the elites. However, there are few people wishing to support the prime minister in this difficult matter, which is why he relies on popular support. The legacy of the previous regime is hundreds, if not thousands of political staffers who have already developed their reproduction mechanisms. Therefore, it is easier for Pashinyan, even being the head of the Cabinet, to represent the opposition as a prime minister in the republic’s parliament rather than make unpopular decisions himself. However, moving away from resolving pressing issues, Pashinyan risks becoming someone that he had overthrown. It was the former regime's closed and inert policy, coupled with his provincial militant worldview, that served as a catalyst for the public support movement for Pashinyan during his walking marches from Gyumri to Yerevan. But even now, being more popular than ex-presidents Sargsyan and Kocharyan, Prime Minister Pashinyan is not trying to restart the state management system. Instead, Armenia's entire information space is filled with him.

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