Changes can be peaceful.
The website Charter97.org is following the situation in Armenia. Scientist-physicist, one of the leaders of the democratic movement in Armenia in the 1990s, former deputy of the Supreme Council of the republic and Armenia’s Ambassador to Russia Stepan Grigoryan answered the questions how the life in the country has changed after the “velvet revolution”, whether Nikol Pashinyan appeared worthy of the popular trust, and which lessons Belarus can learn from Armenia’s experience.
- Stepan, you were one of the permanent commentators for Charter97.org during the latest events in Armenia, you got arrested at the demonstration in Yerevan. What is the situation in the country after the victory of the revolution?
- In my point of view, after the election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister, Armenia’s development is moving in the right direction. The new PM has already formed the government. Now the ministers are looking for deputies for themselves, the personnel work is ongoing, new people are getting involved. This is a kind or a routine but still a very important process.
Also, the program of the government which is to be created within two weeks, is under preparation. The newly-elected PM will have to present this program in the parliament.
I am very glad to witness the governement refreshing, we see a lot of young people. Very sensible people, many of them I know personally, they made a very good impression. There are also experienced people who are highly respected by people, for example - the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. The development is moving in the right direction.
Just yesterday, a teleconference took place between Nikol Pashinyan and the very famous American economist with Armenian roots Daron Ajemoglu. He is a world expert on transit economies, countries in transition. I think we have something to learn from him.
Simultaneously, protests continue throughout the country. I consider this a positive aspect. I'll explain why. People have chosen a new power, but they understand that they constantly need to raise sore points and keep the government on their toes.
I think you know that representatives of the chemical plant "Nairit" met with ministers, taxi drivers met with the Minister of Transport. Rallies and meetings, to which invited representatives of the government are invited, are taking place all the time.
- This is a sort of the popular democracy in action.
- Exactly. For the last 10 years of Serge Sargsyan’s rule many problems have accumulated, they need to be solved. It makes me happy that the people are so active in solving complicated issues.
Now, serious processes have begun with regard to political prisoners. Human rights organizations, relatives - they all trust Pashinyan and favor his election, but at the same time, they seriously raise the issue of release.
The Armenians realized one very important thing: yes, we have chosen very good power, but we must continue to ask sharp questions and struggle for the speediest solution of our problems.
The authorities act accordingly. Representatives of the government come to all pickets and rallies.
The situation with political prisoners is more connected with the old authorities. In the parliamentary republic, the prosecutor is appointed by the parliament. The new Prime Minister has no constitutional right to replace the prosecutor. And the current prosecutor is a representative of the old government, he is not used to acting by law.
There is a big problem with the judicial system. Formally, all the courts in Armenia were independent. But in fact - all acted under the orders of the authorities. Today Nikol Pashinyan says: "Learn how to work according to the law!"
And they practically boycott the work. Judges are accustomed to act on the signal from above. It has come to the point that many lawsuits are being postponed. People are not used to work. And that's the problem. Nikol Pashinyan says that he is not going to continue the practice of the old presidents and prime ministers, when they interfered into the work of the courts.
That is why there are so many positive changes in Armenia, but the problems with the old authorities remain.
- Does Nikol Pashinyan meet the expectations of the participants of the protest actions?
- Absolutely. There are protest actions taking place in Armenia now, but they are not aimed against the new PM.
I don’t see any serious disappointment in the people. Certainly, there are some groups discussing efficiency of this or that decision of the new Prime Minister. However, Nikol Pashinyan enjoys Armenian citizens’ great trust. It often happens so that people have exaggerated expectations during a revolution, but then comes disappointment.
- What are the relations between the Prime Minister and the President of the country then?
- You know, they seem normal to me so far. However, unfortunately, the PM “suit” was made for Serge Sargsyan here. Nikol Pashinyan is forced to perform the same functions, but he doesn’t want to do this. The new PM is going to make amendments and to pass part of the power to the President. I think this is a rather well-weighed step.
- How do you assess the meeting between Pashinyan and Lukashenka during the EAEU summit in Sochi?
- I assess it normally. Despite embraces and officialdom, the new Prime Minister raised the question that worries Armenians. It is a question of military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Belarus. Minsk helps the official Baku. It seems to me that Nikol Pashinyan did the right thing, raising this issue at the first meeting.
- When a revolutionary leader meets with a dictator, Belarusians normally don’t take it very well…
- I understand it perfectly. However, as long as our countries remain within the EAEU and CSTO, such meetings will take place.
Just look at the situation from another angle. The existence of a man, elected by the people, among the leaders who have long been in power, blows up the situation and changes the whole atmosphere. Imagine Putin, Lukashenka, Nazarbayev, who have long been in power…
- ...not elected by their peoples.
- Absolutely. And suddenly the young PM of Armenia appears. This changes the state of affairs.
- The events in Yerevan inspired Belarusians. Everyone wished you victory, everyone rejoiced that Armenians prevented the establishment of the dictatorship in their country. What would you advise the people, who are struggling with the Lukashenka dictatorship today?
- Fighting for your rights is normal. Armenia has proved that changes can be peaceful. But you need consistency in this fight. Only then there will the result. Maybe not today, not tomorrow, but the change is inevitable. It is necessary to teach the authorities that there must be replaceability, and not the eternal dictate of one person.
The change of power in Belarus is inevitable.