Government Program Adopted
On February 14, after a four-day debate, the Armenian parliament adopted the new government program. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan emphasized in his speech to parliament that poverty is not only a socio-economic phenomenon but also linked to certain types of thinking and psychology.
"There must be a significant change regarding the attitude towards tax payment. Whoever you want to approach and say that you have to pay taxes, one is a famous singer, another is a well-known lawyer, and another is a well-known intellectual ... They say, 'But I'm famous, how can you tax singers?' What kind of shame is it? Everyone wants their salaries to rise, pensions to rise, high quality roads, but they do not want to pay taxes. This is Armenia's biggest dilemma. We are fighting against corruption, monopoly, we have created a field and invited everyone to implement that economic revolution," Pashinyan said in his speech.
Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia oppositional parliamentary parties pointed out that the government's program does not include quantitative and measurable indicators. Prosperous Armenia faction leader, businessman Gagik Tsarukyan, told reporters on February 11 that they were part of the revolution and they were on the side of the people's candidate [Nikol Pashinyan], but the program should include deadlines, sources of the necessary money and mechanisms.
Bright Armenia party leader Edmon Marukyan also spoke about the lack of numbers in the program, and said that the program was not discussed with the factions before the plenary session, which is disrespectful towards the parliament. Marukyan also blamed the My Step faction in showing intolerance. In response to this, Pashinyan hinted about the cooperation between Prosperous and Serzh Sargsyan's son-in-law Mikayel Minasyan.
The Bright Armenia and Prosperous Armenia parties voted against the government's draft program.
Read More: Armenia’s Five-Year Government Program Receives Heavy Criticism
Ex-President Robert Kocharyan Faces New Charges
On February 12, the Special Investigative Service of Armenia added a new charge related to bribery to Armenia's second president, Robert Kocharyan’s already existing criminal case. The former president denies the accusation.
Robert Kocharyan was detained on July 27, 2018 and charged with conspiring to overthrow the country’s constitutional order in March of 2008.
Read more: Kocharyan’s Arrest Extended for Another Two Months
General Manvel Grigoryan's Criminal Case Sent to Prosecutor's Office
The preliminary investigation for the criminal case against General Manvel Grigoryan and his wife has been completed and sent to the court. Grigoryan is accused of possessing illegal weapons, embezzling roughly $210,000, evading over $2.1 million in taxes, wasting millions in government funds and illegally acquiring property worth $76,000. According to the charges brought forward, Grigoryan transferred the property and food designated for the army to his private houses, warehouses and used for personal purposes.
Read more: Manvel Grigoryan, From War Hero to Prison
Armenia’s Involvement in Syria Draws US Criticism
An Armenian mission arrived in Syria on February 8. The U.S. State Department criticized Armenia’s mission to Syria, which included experts, doctors, deminers, and a 83-member group to ensure their security. The State Department emphasized that it did not support Armenia’s involvement with the Syrian armed forces, as well as the cooperation between Armenia and Russia for this mission.
In response, Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan said that the mission is exclusively a humanitarian one.
Former Deputy Foreign Minister Ruben Rubinyan, currently a member of Armenian Parliament, said that the decision to send a group of Armenian experts to Syria would not cause wrinkles in Armenia-US relations.