Oligarchs dissatisfied with Pashinyan

Tsarukyan decided to criticize the prime minister. Why now?
Tsarukyan decided to criticize the prime minister. Why now?

Leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) Gagik Tsarukyan, addressing the party members, called for a change in the Nikol Pashinyan government. According to Tsarukyan, the "revolutionary" government had not lived up to expectations. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Pashinyan government has demonstrated the inability to solve its tasks, the economic revolution declared by the authorities has not been realized, and the Armenian economy has not been able to develop immunity under Pashinyan.

MPs from the My Step bloc sharply reacted to the PAP leader’s words, including head of the function Lilit Makunts, who hinted at Tsarukyan’s ambiguous political reputation. Nikol Pashinyan has so far refrained from commenting on this issue.

The Armenian oligarchy is increasingly making claims against the "revolutionary" government, in particular, saying that in more than two years Pashinyan didn't manage to overcome the investment crisis. Tsarukyan's criticism is also largely addressed to the investment policy of the authorities. Indeed, neither Pashinyan, nor the members of his bloc, who make up the majority of the Armenian parliament, have presented a strategy to attract investment in the republic’s budget, or removed bureaucratic obstacles to foreign investors. Instead, Pashinyan embedded himself and his family members in the distribution of the republican budget.

It’s premature to say that Tsarukyan and his close-minded Armenian billionaires are concerned about Armenia's financial immunity. However, there's a similar interest on the part of business elites, since the oligarchy’s business cannot develop without investments in the republic’s budget, which can be successfully mastered. Many areas of the economy are still monopolized.

Now Pashinyan and his team are forced to clear the political space from pseudo-oppositionists. The current parliamentary opponents of Pashinyan are political centenarians.

It’s worth saying that Tsarukyan’s statements are not original - there were similar statements last year, and in 2018, when his party left the coalition with the My Step bloc. The PAP adhered to a similar position during the reign of the "Karabakh clan", positioning itself as an opposition party. However, in the recent history of Armenian parliamentarism, no political party ever created or funded by the oligarchs has been oppositional, since it was limited to lobbying for oligarchic interests in one or another economic sphere. That's what the PAP also does, drawing the public's attention exclusively to the mistakes of the authorities, with no intelligible economic program in its arsenal.

Why did Tsarukyan decide to criticize Pashinyan right now? The oligarch is worried about his position. The news that Pashinyan had contracted COVID-19 was received with undisguised skepticism in Armenia's political circles. Politicians have suggested that the Armenian prime minister took political time out, as public tension negatively affects his image, and the epidemiological situation does not improve.

The oligarchs do not rule out that after Pashinyan’s return to action, a wave of political lustration will be initiated, through which he will fill the republic’s information space, curbing the wave of public indignation. Attack is the best form of defence, therefore, according to Tsarukyan’s logic, it would not be out of place to remind Pashinyan that under any circumstances one should not quarrel with one of the most influential Armenian businessmen.

Obviously, Armenia will not be the same after the coronavirus epidemic. The authorities will have to solve many unpleasant issues, primarily in the field of health care. It is possible that Pashinyan expects to put the business in new conditions during the pandemic at the expense of the oligarchs, and they, of course, fear for their resources.

Health care reform is inevitable, at least for ideological reasons, since the current system was powerless against the coronavirus threat, and the republic’s budget, obviously, will not be reoriented solely to the health care needs. Perhaps Pashinyan hopes to manipulate public opinion, forcing the oligarchy to work more actively with charitable foundations. The prime minister can recall how the oligarchs stood in line for financial support, while the republic's hospitals needed ordinary personal protective equipment.

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