By Sareen Habeshian and Syuzanna Petrosyan
On December 5, the nine political parties and two alliances participating in Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections took part in a political debate on national television. The parliamentary debate was the first in the Republic’s history.
The parties and alliances each put forward their number-one ranked candidate to partake in the debate. Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan from the My Step Alliance; Vigen Sargsyan of the Republican Party of Armenia; Aram Sargsyan from the We Alliance; Gagik Tsarukyan of the Prosperous Armenia Party; Edmon Marukyan of Bright Armenia Party; Arthur Baghdasaryan from the Rule of Law Party; Armen Rustamyan from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF); Suren Sahakayan from the Citizen's Decision Social-Democratic Party; Lusine Haroyan from the National Progress Party; Varuzhan Avetisyan of the Sasna Tsrer Party; and Levon Shirinyan from the Christian-Democratic Rebirth Party.
The debate, which lasted for three hours, was hosted by Armenian Public Television and was moderated by TV anchors Armen Dulyan and Christine Melkonyan. CivilNet provided a live English translation.
Round One: Opening Statements
After the moderators explained the rules, each candidate was allowed two minutes to make an open remark.
Vigen Sargsyan of the Republican Party, the former ruling party that last power during the Velvet Revolution, said that in the elections will determine whether the Armenian people want a tyranny or checks and balances.
Next, Suren Sahakyan of the Citizen’s Decision Social-Democratic Party said he has nothing to discuss with the coalitions and semi-coalitions of old powers because they have contaminated the country, eliminated justice, erased border between good and evil.
Armen Rustamyan from the ARF said the main task for the party is to continue the “real revolution,” and added that the ARF will bring substance to the revolution.
Nikol Pashinyan from the My Step Alliance noted the accomplishments of his government thus far include a decrease in rates for power and gas, higher salaries, increase in pensions and lower interests rates.
Lusine Haroyan from the National Progress Party noted that the party aims to create a human-centric society, a socially healthy environment and a nation free from hands of abuse.
Aram Sargsyan, who served as prime minister from 1999 to 2000, from the We Alliance, focused his opening statement on foreign policy, notably the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Artur Baghdasaryan from the Rule of Law Party said that the public election debate, the first in 30 years, is good achievement of new Armenia. He rejected the idea of wiretapping heads of state, saying that it's not honorable.
Varuzhan Avetisyan from the Sasna Tsrer Party said Armenia needs more of a comprehensive justice not just transitional justice.
Businessman Gagik Tsarukyan of the Prosperous Armenia Party said his party will bring forth an economic revolution in Armenia.
Edmon Marukyan said the Bright Armenia Party is a liberal political union, that has demonstrated that it’s a team of principal, ideological people that are always fighting for people’s rights. He said the party voted against Serzh Sargsyan’s third term and identified the sabotage in the Parliament in October against the Republic of Armenia. “We have been talking about the ineffectiveness of the system when just one city is developed and many communities are unfairly underdeveloped.
Levon Shirinyan from the Christian-Democratic Rebirth Party said the party is a radical supporter of the revolution. He said the party developed a framework for Christian values based on national traditional values.
Round Two: Corruption
In round two of the parliamentary debate, participants answered questions regarding the fight against corruption in Armenia.
Gagik Tsarukyan from the Prosperous Armenia Party said there must be an increase in salaries for workers, starting with government employees and teachers.
Nikol Pashinyan noted that the system of economic corruption has been eradicated in Armenia.
Armen Rustamyan from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation insisted that corruption should be fought by independent agencies, civil society and the opposition.
Round Three: Nagorno Karabakh
In the third round, participants presented their party’s proposed approaches for guaranteeing the security for Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia.
Vigen Sargsyan from the Republican Party criticized Pashinyan’s foreign policy and the way he handled the CSTO Secretary-General situation. Pashinyan responded saying that the issue of the CSTO Secretary-General did not impede Armenia’s position vis a vie Azerbaijan.
Lusine Haroyan noted that National Progress Party’s position is different than others' in that they support keeping the status quo but enacting policies to empower Karabakh.
Pashinyan said it is important that political stability results in economic stability. The long-term vision should be democratic, legal and a type of stability that will create favorable conditions for economic revolution.
Round Four: Candidates Question One Another
Varuzhan Avetisyan from the Sasna Tsrer Party addressed Pashinyan in asking, “We are certain that it is impossible to take the past justice system and implement the program of fighting corruption. Do you agree?” Nikol Pashinyan responded in agreement, noting that he has discussed the notion of transitional justice within his party.
Referring to wiretaps, Vigen Sargsyan of the Republican Party of Armenia said they know that Pashinyan's government decides who will be detained. Pashinyan responded that if that were the case, 90 percent of Republicans would be in jail, Sargsyan himself included.