Nikol Pashinyan

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Nikol Pashinyan
Nikol Pashinyan.jpg
16th Prime Minister of Armenia
Assumed office
May 8, 2018
President Armen Sarkissian
Preceded by Karen Karapetyan (acting)
Leader of the Way Out Alliance
Assumed office
May 18, 2017
Serving with Aram Sargsyan, Edmon Marukyan
Member of the National Assembly
In office
May 6, 2012 – May 8, 2018
Parliamentary group Armenian National Congress (2012–17)
Way Out Alliance (2017–18)
Constituency Electoral District #4 (2017)
Personal details
Born (1975-06-01) June 1, 1975 (age 43)
Ijevan, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Armenian
Political party Civil Contract (2013–)
Way Out Alliance (2016–)
Other political
affiliations
Armenian National Congress (2008–13)
Impeachment Union (2007)
Spouse(s) Anna Hakobyan
Children 4
Education Yerevan State University (expelled)
Occupation Journalist, editor-in-chief
Signature

Nikol Pashinyan (Armenian: Նիկոլ Փաշինյան; born 1 June 1975) is an Armenian politician who has served as Prime Minister of Armenia since 8 May 2018. He is a former journalist and editor.

A prominent journalist, Pashinyan first founded his own newspaper in 1998 which was shut down a year later. He was sentenced for one year for defamation against then Minister of National Security Serzh Sargsyan. He edited Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times) from 1999 to 2012. Sympathetic to the government of Armenian's first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, it was highly critical of second president Robert Kocharyan, Defense Minister Serzh Sargsyan, and their allied oligarchs. Pashinyan led a minor opposition party in the 2007 parliamentary election, garnering 1.3% of the vote. He was an outspoken supporter of Ter-Petrosyan, when the latter made a political comeback prior to the 2008 presidential election. Ter-Petrosyan was defeated by Serzh Sargsyan in an election marred with widespread vote fraud and violence. Noted for his fiery speeches, Pashinyan had a significant role in the post-election protests which were violently put down by government forces on March 1, 2008 resulting in the deaths of 10 people. Pashinyan, blamed for "organizing mass disorders," went into hiding only to come out in mid-2009. He was controversially sentenced to 7 years in prison; a move that was widely seen a politically motivated. He was released in May 2011 in accordance to a general amnesty. He was elected to parliament form Ter-Petrosyan's broad opposition coalition, the Armenian National Congress, in 2012.

He later broke from Ter-Petrosyan on political grounds, establishing the party Civil Contract. Along with two other opposition parties, Pashinyan formed the Way Out alliance which garnered almost 8% of the vote in the 2017 parliamentary election. He was the leader of the 2018 Armenian revolution which forced Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and his government to resign. On 1 May 2018, he failed to gain enough votes from the Parliament to become the Prime Minister himself, but was elected in the second vote on 8 May.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Nikol Pashinyan was born on June 1, 1975 in Ijevan, in the northeastern province of Tavush. At least one of his grandparents was from the village of Yenokavan, around 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Ijevan.[2] He was named after his paternal grandfather who died in World War II.[3] His father, Vova Pashinyan, worked as a football and volleyball coach and as a physical education teacher.[4] His mother died when he was 12 and he was mostly raised by his stepmother, Yerjanik, who was Vova's second wife.[5] He graduated from the Ijevan Secondary School N1 in 1991.[6] During the Karabakh movement of 1988 Pashinyan organized students strikes, marches and demonstrations.[7] He did not serve in the Armenian Army because his two elder brothers served before him and he was not obliged to serve by law.[8] Pashinyan studied journalism at Yerevan State University (YSU) from 1991 to 1995. An excellent student, he was expelled from the university just before graduation for his criticism of the YSU leadership.[9] In a 2015 interview Pashinyan stated that he considers himself more of a journalist because journalism brought him into politics.[4]

Pashinyan is married to Anna Hakobyan, a journalist whom he met at YSU. They have three daughters and a son. She has been editor-in-chief of Haykakan Zhamanak since 2012.[10] Pashinyan and Hakobyan are not officially married, nor did they have a church ceremony. Pashinyan stated that he hopes they can get married at an Armenian Apostolic church one day.[4] Their son, Ashot, volunteered to serve in Artsakh (Karabakh) in 2018.[11]

Besides his native Armenian, Pashinyan speaks Russian[12] and English.[13][14]

Journalism career[edit]

Pashinyan became engaged in journalism in 1992 as a journalism student at the Yerevan State University (YSU). He worked at Dprutyun, Hayastan, Lragir, and Molorak newspapers. By 1995 he had a reputation of a leading and talented journalist by his colleagues.[15] In 1998 he founded the daily Oragir ("Diary"). It was affiliated with the Nor Ughi (New Path) opposition party led by former Minister of Education Ashot Bleyan.[16] During the 1999 parliamentary election Oragir was highly critical of Country of Law, the party of Serzh Sargsyan, then Minister of the Interior and National Security, and Right and Accord Bloc led by Artashes Geghamyan and supported by Samvel Babayan, Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Minister. Overall, during the election Oragir published 281 articles on political parties participating in the election, of which 11 were positive. All positive coverage was given to HHSh, which the newspaper sympathized.[17]

In August 1999 Pashinyan was sentenced to one year after refusing to pay a fine of around $25,000.[18][19] He was also ordered to retract his accusations against Serzh Sargsyan and Mika-Armenia, a large trading company which the court had ruled constituted defamation. The properties of Oragir were confiscated and its bank accounts frozen. According to Simon Payaslian it made Pashinyan the "first journalist prosecuted for libel in post-Soviet Armenia."[16] His conviction was widely criticized by Armenian and foreign human rights activists. Human rights defender Avetik Ishkhanian noted that "In 1999 almost as many cases were brought against Oragir as against all newspapers of Armenia from 1994 till 1998. This is evidence of political prosecution."[17] Under apparent local and international pressure, the Court of Appeals reduced his sentence to 1 year of suspended sentence because the original sentence was too harsh.[18][6]

Haykakan Zhamanak[edit]

Following the demise of Oragir, Pashinyan became the editor of Haykakan Zhamanak ("Armenian Times"), affiliated with the minor opposition Democratic Homeland Party, led by former MP Petros Makeyan which had split off from the Ter-Petrosyan led HHSh.[20] Pashinyan remained editor of the newspaper until 2012, when he was elected to parliament.[6] The State Department characterized both Oragir and Haykakan Zhamanak as "sensationalist political tabloids."[18] John Evans, the U.S. ambassador in Armenia wrote in a 2004 leaked report that the Haykakan Zhamanak has a "reputation for publishing unfounded stories that tend not to be borne out."[21] The U.S. government funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty described the newspaper as "sympathetic to Armenia’s former leadership [Ter-Petrosyan's government], is known for its hard-hitting coverage of President Robert Kocharian and his government."[22]

On December 23, 1999 Pashinyan was beaten by a "gang" of dozen men who were reportedly led by a local businessman who was angered by an article in Haykakan Zhamanak that accused him of corruption.[18]

In March 2002 Pashinyan was charged with slandering Hovhannes Yeritsyan, head of the civil aviation agency of Armenia, for allegedly insulting the later on the November 6, 2001 issues which featured the photo of Yeritsyan with the caption, "Degenerate officials recruited for the civil service."[23] The charges were condemned by the three largest parliamentary groups, including pro-government ones.[24] The case was eventually dropped in April by prosecutors by citing lack of evidence.[25]

On November 22, 2004 a Lada Niva car belonging to Pashinyan, parked outside the office of Haykakan Zhamanak exploded.[26] It was put out by firefighters. Pashinyan believed it was an attack perpetrated by Gagik Tsarukyan, an oligarch and MP close to president Robert Kocharyan who was deputy chairman of the Armenian Olympic Committee (AOC). He suggested it may have been a retaliation for a "derogatory cartoon" deploring the poor performance of Armenian athletes at the Athens Olympics.[22] The newsparer staff believed it was hit by a Molotov cocktail or an improvised explosive device. Police inquiry immediately pointed to an apparent "breakdown of the car battery’s wires." Tsarukyan denied any involvement. Instead, he stated: "In order to boost their standing people may say different unnecessary things," after which he laughed.[27] John Evans, the U.S. ambassador in Armenia, wrote in a leaked report that although Pashinyan did not substantiate his claims tha the destruction of his car was an act of intimidation, "the authorities' suggestion that Pashinyan's car died of natural causes is hard to swallow."[21]

Early political career[edit]

During the 1998 Armenian presidential election Pashinyan was a member of the election office of presidential candidate Ashot Bleyan, former Minister of Education and Science under president Levon Ter-Petrosyan.[28] Bleyan was the leader of the New Path (Nor Ughi) Party, which had split from the Pan-Armenian National Movement (HHSh), the ruling party of Ter-Petrosyan.

2007 parliamentary election[edit]

Pashinyan entered the political scene prior to the 2007 parliamentary election. He led Impeachment Union, an electoral bloc forged by "Alternative" public-political initiative, founded by himself, and the Democratic Fatherland and Conservative parties, led by former HHSh MP Petros Makeyan and Mikayel Hayrapetyan, receptively.[29][30] The primary policy goal of the bloc was impeaching President Robert Kocharyan,[31] but also ousting Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan from power.[32] On February 20, their first rally at Freedom Square drew around 1,000 people. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty it "highlighted the persisting lack of public support" for Ter-Petrosyan's allies. The bloc offered a liberal ideological alternative to the policies of Kocharyan. Pashinyan stated at the rally: "We have come to this square to say that we are the masters of our country, the masters of its misery and splendor, its heroism and recklessness, its victories and defeats What we want is a homeland with citizens, a homeland which is able to protect its citizens."[33]

On May 9, 2007, 3 days before the election, Impeachment along with Republic and New Times parties, marched on the National Security Service building to demand the release of Alexander Arzumanyan, whom they considered a political prisoner. It led to clashes, where policemen beat members of the opposition with batons. They also used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Pashinyan told the crowd: "Victory is not achieved at once. Victory is achieved step by step. Today we took a very important step towards our victory. Well done." Ararat Mahtesyan, deputy chief of Armenian police, blamed Pashinyan for the violence: "Several participants led by Nikol Pashinyan provoked an incident with police, dashed to the National Security Service entrance, and when police tried to stop their movement, scuffles broke out." Police actions were condemned by other opposition parties.[34] Opposition later moved to Freedom Square where they held a demonstration.[32] Impeachment garnered 17,475 votes and came in 13th, with 1.28% of the overall vote, far below the threshold.[35] Following the election, Pashinyan held a two day sit-in at Freedom Square to denounce the election results as rigged and demand invalidation of official results.[36] Pashinyan left the Constitutional Court in protest on June 7, claiming judicial farce and prejudgment.[37]

Ter-Petrosyan

2008 presidential election[edit]

Election campaign[edit]

In July 2007 Pashinyan stated that the opposition can prevent vote rigging and defeat Serzh Sargsyan, the likely 2008 presidential successor of Kocharyan, only if they unite around a single presidential candidate.[38] Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Armenia's first president, made a comeback on September 21, 2007—appearing publicly for the first time since his resignation in 1998. Pashinyan and Haykakan Zhamanak expressed support for Ter-Petrosyan. Pashinyan stood behind Ter-Petrosyan when the latter announced about his comeback at Marriott Hotel Yerevan.[39] Pashinyan was considered a key ally of Ter-Petrosyan during the 2008 presidential election campaign and was a member of his election office.[40] Joseph Pennington, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, described Pashinyan as Ter-Petrosyan's "customary crowd-warmer" during the election campaign.[41]

Pashinyan was detained, with several others, for less than day after altercation with police officers on October 16 when a group of Ter-Petrosyan's supporters were announcing an upcoming rally over a loudspeaker.[42] Pashinyan was again detained on October 23 along with other activists.[43] They were taken into custody after a brawl with policemen led by Aleksandr Afyan, deputy chief of the Yerevan police, during a march through the center of Yerevan to inform passersby about Ter-Petrosyan's upcoming rally. Police accused opposition activists of disrupting public order, while Pashinyan stated that Afyan "behaved like a street criminal." Pashinyan, along with other activists, were released the next day when Ter-Petrosyan himself negotiated with Afyan.[44] On October 30 Pashinyan was charged with participation in mass riots and "violence against a representative of the authorities."[16] Pashinyan did not show up to the police station. His house was searched by police officers who did not find him there.[45] Pashinyan claimed the increasing attacks on opposition activists was due to the growing number of Ter-Petrosyan supporters. He said, "The authorities realize that events are taking a dangerous turn for them. That is why they are taking jittery steps which will not yield any results."[46]

Post-election protests and violence[edit]

On election day, February 19, when the Ter-Petrosyan camp reported numerous violations and cases of violence, Pashinyan declared "as a consequence of intimidation and other violations, the situation can get out of control, full responsibility for which would be born by the ruling regime."[47] The next day, he claimed the election was an "attempt at a criminal coup d’etat" due to significant violations. He claimed that according to their information, Ter-Petrosyan had won in the first round.[48] Pashinyan was one of the most prominent orators during the post-election protests in late February.[40] On February 21, when Ter-Petrosyan's supporters set up tents at Freedom Square, Pashinyan declared the square to be the central headquarters of Ter-Petrosyan.[49] He declared, "We expect our legitimate demands to be met. Our actions will be peaceful as long as all we have not exhausted all legal methods of struggle. We are prepared for any scenario." He urged demonstrators to be restrained and patient.[50] Pashinyan also stated in a speech that they demanded invalidation of the vote and new presidential elections.[51] In a series of classified documents, leaked by WikiLeaks, Joseph Pennington, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, suggests that Pashinyan was a "radical [Ter-Petrosyan] ally" and a "cheerleader" during post-election protests.[52] The peaceful demonstrations on Freedom Square came to an end on March 1, when the government used violence to disperse the crowd at Freedom Square.

Ter-Petrosyan's supporters gathered at Myasnikyan Square, near the French Embassy and Yerevan City Hall where Pashinyan became the main orator. Ter-Petrosyan was put under house arrest. In late afternoon, Pashinyan called on the crowd to reinforce the barricades around the square and "boost their self-defense" in case of a police attack. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that "Many protesters were already armed with metal and wooden sticks and sounded bullish about taking on security forces. Some held truncheons and shields seized from riot police."[53] Pashinyan called on the crowd to stay calm and not to communicate with the police.[54] RFE/RL also noted that there are no "demonstrators carrying weapons." Later in the evening, around 20,000 people gathered at Myasnikyan Square, government forces began an assault against the protesters by firing rounds into the air to disperse them. Pashinyan urged people to stay. He also blamed the government for "destabilizing the situation."[55] According to Pennington, Pashinyan, as Ter-Petrosyan's "most radical lieutenant," "used extreme rhetoric to exhort protesters to fight" on March 1.[56] Pennington also claimed that "there is credible evidence that on March 1 Pashinian did in fact incite demonstrators to engage in violent confrontations with police."[57] Pashinyan denies provoking violence.[58] Two years later, U.S. ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch wrote in a leaked report that Pashinyan's alleged crime was "the delivery of a fiery speech in the midst of an unauthorized political protest."[59]

In March 2018 Pashinyan asked the Prosecutor General of Armenia to subpoena Kocharyan for questioning for March 1, 2008 events and the latter's order to use force. Kocharyan's speaker Viktor Soghomonyan responded calling Pashinyan "the main provocateur and organizer of the March 1, 2008 disturbances."[60]

Escape, hiding and conviction[edit]

Pashinyan went into hiding on March 2 as post-election demonstrations were violently dispersed by government forces, resulting in the death of 10.[61] In March 2018 he publicly exposed the details of his escape from the scene of demonstrations in the night of March 2, 2008. He spent time at different locations (mostly houses of friends and acquaintances) in Yerevan and never left the city.[62] His house was searched by the National Security Service (NSS).[57] On March 24 two NSS colonels approached the U.S. embassy to check if Pashinyan was there by citing "persistent rumors in Yerevan." Pennington reported that "This odd incident suggests to us that the NSS is under intense pressure to catch Pashinian—of all LTP's aides the one who regularly used the most radical rhetoric—and the NSS apparently has no idea where he may be. We have had no contact with Pashinian in many months."[63]

In hiding, Pashinyan continued regularly writing commentaries in Haykakan Zhamanak.[64] In his writings Pashinyan claimed to be travelling around the world with a fake Serbian passport.[65] In 2009 he stated at a court that his accounts about supposed adventures were a piece of literary fiction.[66] In October 2008 he wrote that the authorities have proved that only through a revolution can rule of law, civil rights and free economic competition be established in Armenia. He stated that he believes in a "bloodless and peaceful" revolution and stressed that it depends on the authorities. He blamed the deaths of 10 people on March 1 on the Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, who "ordered and organized the slaughter."[67]

Surrender[edit]

In late June 2009 Pashinyan declared that he decided to come out of hiding after general amnesty declared by the government. He stated, "I conclude with pride that it is now my turn to become a political prisoner. My decision to move from underground to prison is also driven by a concern about effective political struggle. The struggle needs fresh impetus. Some of my political prisoner comrades will give that impetus after regaining their freedom, while I hope to do that after finding myself in prison."[68] Pashinyan arrived at the General Prosecutor's Office on July 1, 2009 and surrendered himself.[69] Entering the building, Pashinyan told surprised officers: "Hello. I am Nikol Pashinyan, and I came to be arrested."[70] It followed an amnesty declared by the National Assembly which would allow him to be released if his sentence was less than 5 years.[61] He declared that he will continue his struggle in prison.[71] A court authorized a two-month custody of Pashinyan,[72] which was extended for the same period in August.[73] Heritage, the major parliamentary opposition, declared that they consider Pashinyan a political prisoner whose detention is part of the "political vendetta by the country’s ruling group."[74] An open letter signed by 60 intellectuals and public figures in August 2009 called for his release.[75] A number of independent and pro-opposition newspapers and other media also called for his release from pre-trial detention.[76]

Trial[edit]

His trial began on October 20, 2009. In his first speech, Pashinyan called his trial a "continuation of political repressions."[77] The verdict was made on January 19, 2010 by the court of the general jurisdiction of the communities of Kentron and Nork-Marash in Yerevan. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison for "organizing mass disorders" on March 1-2, 2008. He was given a stricter punishment than the prosecutor demanded.[78] He was acquitted of charges of using violence against a policeman (kicking a police officer in the leg) during the election campaign in October 2007.[79][61][59] Witnesses who testified in court claimed that they heard Pashinyan make "inflammatory statements on March 1, urging protesters to pick up objects from the ground (rocks, metal) in order to defend themselves. According to the testimony, Pashinian also encouraged protesters to 'fight to the end,' proclaimed that it was 'a revolution,' and made similarly provocative statements."[59]

The Court of Appeals of Armenia upheld the ruling on March 9, 2010 also ruling that Pashinyan will serve half of his sentence in accordance with the general amnesty.[80] The Court of Cassation upheld the decision on May 6, 2010.[81]

Reactions

Pashinyan was widely recognized as a political prisoner,[82][83][84] including by international organizations,[85] and Armenian media.[86][87][88]

The Armenian National Congress (ANC), a broad alliance of Ter-Petrosyan allies, condemned Pashinyan's conviction calling it "unlawful, ordered by the authorities, and part of President Sargsian's ongoing campaign 'to destroy the opposition'."[59] Davit Shahnazaryan, ex-Minister of National Security, stated that it is a "lynch trial against a representative of the opposition."[61] Styopa Safaryan and Armen Martirosyan from the Heritage party stated that Pashinyan's conviction reflects "the authorities' desire that the opposition capitulate totally" and that the verdict "made no sense juridically, but politically signals the authorities' fear of Pashinian's ability to mobilize popular support for the opposition cause."[59]

Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the Prosecutor General's office used a "detailed expert analysis of the linguistic and psychological aspects of Mr Pashinyan’s speech had been performed, and that this was instrumental in proving his role in organising the mass disorders."[89] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteurs for Armenia, John Prescott and Axel Fischer stated in their 2011 report Pashinyan's "continued detention is also highly problematic." They stated, "Both the grounds for Mr Pashinyan’s conviction, as well as the manner in which his sentence was handed out, raise very serious questions."[90] U.S. ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch, in a report leaked by WikiLeaks, suggested the trial was described as fair "as far as the procedures are concerned." The report stated, however, that the "conviction and initial sentence are clearly disproportionate to the alleged crime (the delivery of a fiery speech in the midst of an unauthorized political protest). No direct correlation linking Pashinian's provocative statements and organizing mass disorders were proven. That other opposition defendants who were found guilty under the same charge received a lighter sentence and qualified for complete amnesty also calls into question Pashinian's sentence."[59]

In December 2010 dozens of members of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, a generally pro-government establishment organization, signed a letter calling for Pashinyan's release.[91]

November 2010 incident and transfer

On November 11, 2010 Pashinyan claimed to have been attacked inside his prison cell at Kosh prison by two masked men.[92] The Armenian Justice Ministry denied the claims: "No injuries were detected as a result of the examination, while prisoners testified that there was no violence."[93] He was moved into solitary confinement for security reasons a week later.[94] He was transferred to the Artik prison on November 30 under another stricter regime.[95] The Ministry of Justice claimed he was transferred due to alleged violations of prison regulations.[96]

2010 by-election[edit]

In late October 2009 Pashinyan declared about his intention to run for a seat in the parliament in the 10th constituency, a single-member district that covered the center of Yerevan. The seat was vacated by Khachatur Sukiasyan, a businessman and an ally of Ter-Petrosyan.[97] He became the first jailed candidate in independent Armenia's history to fun for parliament.[98] He was initially refused to be registered as a candidate since the Police Department of Passports and Visas refused to confirm that Pashinyan had resided in Armenia for the past five years.[65] A court ruled that there was no proof Pashinyan had left Armenia during his time in hiding.[66][99] He was registered as a candidate on December 5.[100][101] The Armenian National Congress and Ter-Petrosyan campaigned extensively for Pashinyan.[102][103] Youth activists of the ANC were beaten up while campaigning.[104]

The election, held on January 10, 2010, returned a low turnout of just 24%. Pashinyan garnered 39% of the votes (4,650), while the pro-government candidate Ara Simonyan won some 59% (6,850).[105] Pashinyan ally and former MP Petros Makeyan and two others were beaten and were hospitalized during the election.[106][107] The ANC condemned the election results by citing numerous irregularities.[108] A similar opinion was stated by the U.S. embassy.[109] Joseph Pennington, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, wrote in a leaked report that Pashinyan's results were respectable and it "pleasantly exceeded" the ANC's pre-election projection. Pennington noted that "What stretches credulity, however, is that Pashinian lost so resoundingly to such an obscure figure as Simonian, who has essentially no name recognition in Armenia's personality-driven political establishment and does not even hail from any of the three parties of the ruling coalition. Indeed, while Pashinian has captured headlines -- and arguably much sympathy -for two years, Simonian has been invisible."[110]

Release and election to the parliament[edit]

Pashinyan was released from Artik prison on May 27, 2011 in accordance with the general amnesty declared by the government.[111] Greeting a crowd of supporters gathered outside the gates, he declared "Our fights is unpreventable, our victory inevitable."[112] He was released along with Sasun Mikayelyan, a Karabakh War veteran and an ally of Ter-Petrosyan. They were the two last major opposition politicians jailed for the March 1 events.[113][114] Pashinyan affirmed that he and the ANC are committed to the idea of democratic revolution in Armenia.[114]

2011 protests

On May 31, 2011 the ANC held a rally at Freedom Square for the first time since the March 1 events. Ter-Petrosyan called for talks with the government.[115] Pashinyan speaking at a rally for the first time since the March 1, 2008 events declared, "From today on we start a political process in favour of early presidential and parliamentary elections, because only they may return people's faith in its future."[116] Ter-Petrosyan considered Pashinyan's release an unprecedented victory.[115] Pashinyan, in an interview, said that either snap election "will take place as a result of the dialogue" between the ANC and the government or they will take place under "popular pressure."[117] He called for an early presidential election which would be an "opportunity for a smooth resignation of power."[118] After failed talks with the government, Pashinyan called for a revolution. He declared, "Robert Kocharyan, Serzh Sargsyan and their oligarchs shall return all the loot to the last penny to the people. They will face trial and made responsible for the murders of March 1, 2008, and for oppressing their people."[119]

2012 election

During the 2012 parliamentary election Pashinyan was a candidate both in the party-list (#7) of the Armenian National Congress (ANC)[120] and as a single-constituency candidate in the 7th electoral district, which covered Yerevan's Malatia-Sebastia District. During the election Pashinyan notably called on voters to wage a "revolution of 30 seconds". He explained that voters are alone inside the voting booths and they can wage a revolution by voting for the ANC in the 30 second that they have for themselves. He stated, "We do not expect your active participation in our rallies, campaign for the ANC in your workplace and at home. You enter the polling booth, vote for the ANC, and that’s it, the revolution starts, the door opens up for the future of their children, for justice."[121][122] In the constituency he came in second with around 28% of the vote after Samvel Aleksanyan, an oligarch affiliated with the Republican Party, who garnered 58% of the vote.[123] During the election campaign in Malatia-Sebastia, Pashinyan was confronted by several dozen pro-Aleksanyan women voters. In response, Pashinyan told Aleksanyan not to "send women and hide behind their backs." In a different incident, a group of Pashinyan supporters was attacked by young men.[124] Pashinyan was elected member of the National Assembly from the ANC, which barely passed the 7% threshold for electoral alliances and received 7 seats.

Break with Ter-Petrosyan[edit]

In October 2012 Pashinyan publicly denounced any potential ANC collaboration with Gagik Tsarukyan and his Prosperous Armenia party. Ter-Petrosyan argued that through a cooperation with Tsarukyan, the ANC would be able to depose Serzh Sargsyan. He stated he did "find a compromise with March 1 criminals possible" in a reference to ex-president Kocharyan who was thought to be supportive of Tsarukyan. Regarding the 2013 presidential election he believed that Ter-Petrosyan would nominate his candidacy and "all those who want to defeat Serzh Sargsyan can defend Levon Ter-Petrosyan's candidacy."[125]

After Ter-Petrosyan declined to be a presidential candidate, Pashinyan did not endorse any candidate. However, following the election, he showed outspoken support for the official runner-up, Raffi Hovannisian. He stated, "The current political situation is more than clear. People trust the leader of the Heritage party, Raffi Hovannisian, who must present to the society his vision regarding the further developments. My assistance to the further programs of Raffi Hovannisian will depend on their political and civil contents. Bringing the Armenian people to real victories is the goal that I have always served and will continue to serve."[126] In the post-election protests, Pashinyan joined Hovannisian at Freedom Square, where he called the latter the "elected president" since the elections were rigged by Sargsyan's government.[127] Pashinyan stated at the February 20 rally that the end results of the protests depends on Hovannisian's “determination” and ability to “address the people without puzzles. The people of Armenia cannot be led to a defeat or disappointment. Victory or northing! Victory and nothing else!"[128]

Civil Contract and Way Out Alliance[edit]

The board of Civil Contract, December 2013
Pashinyan in 2014
Pashinyan in October 2015
Pashinyan announcing his nomination as prime minister at a Civil Contract rally in Freedom Square, September 10, 2016

Following a break with Ter-Petrosyan and the ANC, Pashinyan founded a political group called "Civil Contract" on December 9, 2013. Pashinyan, who was one of the 7 members of its governing body, declared that they will seek to remove Serzh Sargsyan from power and hold free and fair elections. Other members of the board were Sasun Mikayelyan, a former MP and a Karabakh war veteran, and 5 politically unaffiliated activists. Both Pashinyan and Mikayelyan were critical of potential cooperation with Tsarukyan.[129]

Pashinyan increasingly distanced himself from Ter-Petrosyan and criticized him for promising his supporters snap elections also taking a responsibility for himself. In October 2014 he criticized the trio of ANC, Prosperous Armenia and Heritage parties for their alleged power-sharing deals with Serzh Sargsyan instead of forcing him to resign.[130] Pashinyan criticized the ambiguity of their demands.[131] He also accused them in monopolization of the political field in Armenia.[132] In November 2014 he announced about his plans to start an impeachment process against Serzh Sargsyan to contribute to the "fulfillment of the trio’s pledge to end the ‘heated political autumn’ with regime change."[133] Besides Pashinyan, two MPs from Heritage party, Alexander Arzumanyan and Zaruhi Postanjyan, signed the draft law.[134]

2017 parliamentary election[edit]

On May 30, 2015 Civil Contract was registered as a political party. Pashinyan stated about the foundation of the party: "We are setting up a party that does not intend to be in opposition for long and expects to assume power in the Republic of Armenia in the foreseeable future by gaining a popular vote of confidence."[135][136] For the first time in his career, Pashinyan joined a political party.[137] The party immediately declared its intention to participate in the 2017 parliamentary election.[138] In November 2015 Pashinyan stated that they will make a promise about regime change only once and will not "lead the people to defeat."[139] The party sought to recruit 6,000 proxies—3 for each of the around 2,000 electoral precincts of Armenia to prevent electoral fraud.[140]

On September 10, 2016 Pashinyan was declared to Civil Contract's candidate for prime minister at a rally in Freedom Square.[141] Though initially sceptial of the idea of electoral blocs, Pashinyan stated in October 2016 that they are ready to cooperate with other parties.[142] On December 1, 2016 Civil Contract, Bright Armenia (led by MP Edmon Marukyan), and Republic (led by former PM Aram Sargsyan) announced about their intention to join forces.[143] The 3 parties signed a memorandum of cooperation on December 12.[144] The alliance claimed to strive for 50% plus one vote in the election.[145] The bloc was named Ելք Yelk ("Way Out") on December 23.[146] Pashinyan explained the name as follows: "The latest political news in Armenia is that there is a way out of this situation."[147] The bloc also claimed to strive to establish a "European model of the democratic, rule-of-law and social state" in Armenia.[148] The bloc positioned itself as the only true opposition to Serzh Sargsyan, claiming that Gagik Tsarukyan and Seyran Ohanyan would prefer cutting deals with Sargsyan instead of regime change.[149] The alliance was seen as pro-Western and "standing for election to replace [Serzh Sargsyan] with a new generation of younger Armenian leaders."[150] Despite the widespread apathy and cynicism, Pashinyan stressed that there is a :way out of the depressive crisis that has plagued Armenia."[151] Pashinyan believed that the bloc could win the elections, following an energetic campaigning across Armenia.[152]

According to official figures, Way Out alliance received 122,049 votes (7.8% of the total), receiving 9 seats in the 105 seat parliament (8.5%). Pashinyan was also a candidate in the 4th electoral district, which comprises the Kentron, Nor Nork, Erebuni, and Nubarashen districts of Yerevan. He gained the most number of votes (11,513) from the Way Out alliance, while coming third overall after two Republicans, who each gained more than 20,000 votes.[153] He was thus elected from to the National Assembly from this constituency.[6] The bloc accepted the results which "on the whole formed as a result of voting by the citizens who took part in the elections." However, the party's official statement accused the ruling Republican party in using "illegal financial and administrative pressures" during the campaign. The statement said that "Tens of thousands of citizens were involved in the chain of vote bribe distribution and acceptance and there is an atmosphere of public tolerance towards that phenomenon, which is a time bomb planted under Armenian statehood." Pashinyan stated that "Money is Armenia’s most popular politician."[154]

2017 Yerevan election[edit]

Pashinyan topped the list of the Way Out alliance in the May 15, 2017 Yerevan City Council election, thus, being the alliance's candidate for mayor of Yerevan.[155] He sought to challenge Taron Margaryan, the Republican Mayor. The other opposition candidate was former MP Zaruhi Postanjyan.[156] Pashinyan strongly criticized the poor state of Yerevan's public transportation. His election campaign mostly consisted of house-to-house campaigning. He stated during the campaign, "You can rely on us in replacing this clan-based and corrupt rule in the capital by the people’s rule."[157] To counter alleged vote buying by the Republican Party, Pashinyan made an election promise to provide residents of Yerevan 15,000 Armenian drams (~$31) for not taking bribes from the Republican Party if elected mayor. According to media reports, bribes by the ruling party averaged 10,000 drams (~$21). "We would introduce social aid for citizens coerced into taking vote bribes," said Pashinyan.[158] Other opposition parties criticized Pashinyan for the promise, including Postanjyan, the ANC, and also the Central Election Commission of Armenia. Levon Zurabyan, speaker of the ANC, stated in response, "It’s wrong to fight against the authorities with their weapons." Others viewed it as an ordinary campaign promise.[159] Way Out alliance came in second in the election, garnering 21% of the vote. Only 41% of those eligible voted.[160]

2018 Revolution[edit]

As early as September 2017 Pashinyan declared that he finds it unacceptable for Serzh Sargsyan to extend his rule as prime minister. He believed that hundreds of thousands of people would take it to the streets against Sargsyan's prolonged rule. Pashinyan assured that there is a political force that will "turn the people’s will into political reality."[161] Despite the fact that Sargsyan promised not to be nominated as president or prime minister after his second presidential term, Pashinyan believed that the Republican Party had "already made a de facto internal decision to nominate" him.[162] Although all constituent parties of the Way Out alliance found Sargsyan's continued rule as prime minister—his "third term"—unacceptable,[163] there was a disagreement within the alliance whether street protests should be waged against it or not. The roadmap of Pashinyan's Civil Contract was not accepted by Bright Armenia and Republic.[164] Pashinyan's partners were skeptical that the protest would attract large enough crowds. Edmon Marukyan went as far as saying Pashinyan was seeking "short-term glory."[165] Marukyan advocated acquiring political leverages to keep Sargsyan's government in check.[166] Nevertheless, Civil Contract announced on March 20, 2018 that they will launch a movement against Sargsyan's "third term in office."[167] Vahram Baghdasaryan, the Republican leader in parliament, dismissed Pashinyan saying that "Power is not a box which they can pick up. You need grounds to take power."[168]

Pashinyan on April 13, 2018 in Freedom Square, Yerevan at the end of his two-week-long march.
Pashinyan surrounded by journalists on Baghramyan Avenue, April 16.

March[edit]

On March 31, Pashinyan and a group of supporters began a march from Gyumri, Armenia's second largest city. The campaign, named "My Step", was declared with the intention to prevent Sargsyan's election as prime minister on April 17. Pashinyan stated:[169]

On April 11, Lena Nazaryan and Ararat Mirzoyan, two MPs from Civil Contract set off smoke flares, calling them "our torch of freedom," at the parliament to publicize the moment further. It was called a "failed show" by the Republican party speaker.[170]

Protests and civil disobedience[edit]

Pashinyan reached Yerevan on April 13 after a 200 km (120 mi) long walk. He called on people to gather at Freedom Square.[171] After a rally, Pashinyan led his supporters to France Square, a major junction in central Yerevan where Mashtots Avenue, Baghramyan Avenue, and Sayat-Nova Avenue intersect. He declared it a "campaign against hopelessness and for dignity." He urged his supporters to stay there overnight and refrain from any kind of violence. He stated that Sargsyan should "feel besieged in Yerevan."[172] Around 200 people stayed overnight in tents or on public benches pulled from nearby sidewalks.[173] Pashinyan called for more acts of civil disobedience, which would paralyze traffic in Yerevan.[174] On April 16 Pashinyan led thousands of his supporters to the parliament building on Baghramyan Avenue. Their march was stopped by police forces who used barbed wire and stun grenades. Pashinyan, among dozens of others, was injured. He attempted to cross the barbed wire line in an effort to break through the police lines in riot gear and armed with batons and shields.[175] Pashinyan called for disruption of the parliamentary session which was to elect Sargsyan as prime minister by blocking the streets leading to the parliament building.[176] On April 17 Pashinyan declared that there is a "revolutionary situation" in Armenia. He called for paralyzation of the entire state system.[177] Sargsyan was elected prime minister with 76 votes in favor and 17 against. He dismissed the protests led by Pashinyan for their supposed smallness.[178]

Pashinyan speaking to supporters through a loudspeaker gathered at the General Prosecutor's Office.

After Sargsyan was elected prime minister, Pashinyan moved the main protest site to Yerevan's Republic Square where he declared the beginning of a "non-violent, velvet, popular revolution" in Armenia.[179] He continued with calls of "total blockade" of streets and government buildings in and outside Yerevan.[180] He also called for snap parliamentary election after the "candidate of the people" is elected as interim prime minister.[181] On April 22 Sargsyan and Pashinyan met at Armenia Marriott Hotel in Republic Square. Their meeting, which was broadcast live, lasted only 3 minutes and was described as "very tense." Addressing Sargsyan, Pashinyan insisted on discussing the "terms of your resignation and peaceful transfer of power." Sargsyan responded: "You have not learned lessons from March 1." Pashinyan considered it a threat of violence against the popular movement.[182] In around an hour, Pashinyan was detained by masked police officers in Yerevan's Erebuni District, where he was marching with his supporters. Two other MPs from Civil Contract were also detained. Armenian police claimed they were "forcibly removed from the site of the gathering" due to an "illegal" demonstration.[183] Unprecedented decentralized protests broke out in different parts of Yerevan despite more than 190 arrests by police.[184] By late evening, more than 100,000 people gathered in and around Republic Square; a far larger crowd than in preceding days.[185][186] Pashinyan was released on April 23, following a meeting with Karen Karapetyan, First Deputy Prime Minister.[187] Sargsyan resigned that day. In his statement, Sargsyan said, "The movement in the streets is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand. I wish our country peace, harmony and common sense." His resignation prompted massive celebrations in Yerevan involving hundreds of thousands of people.[188]

Pashinyan on April 18.

Transfer of power[edit]

Following Sargsyan's resignation, Pashinyan insisted on transfer of power from the Republican Party to the popular movement. He said that the "people's candidate" should be elected prime minister by the Republican-led parliament.[189] He was declared the "people's candidate" at an April 25 rally in Republic Square.[190] Amidst talks of Karen Karapetyan being nominated for prime minister, Pashinyan called for further protests.[191] Despite the fact that the Republicans pledged not to stop Pashinyan from becoming prime minister,[192] he was voted down 45-56 on May 1. While all but one Republican MP voted against him, all MPs from the Way Out alliance, and most MPs from the Tsarukyan bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation voted for him.[193][194] Following the vote, Pashinyan called for a nation-wide general strike and boycott of classes for university students. He urged people to continue pressure the Republican majority in parliament by blocking streets and highways, railroads, and the airports. He accused the Republicans in "announcing war against its own people."[195] Pashinyan called on the Republican party to surrender.[196] He said that political change is "unavoidable and irreversible."[197] After Republicans Virtually all traffic in Yerevan and most highways in Armenia was stopped on May 2 by tens of thousands of people.[198] BBC noted that Pashinyan's supporters "brought much of Armenia to a standstill."[199] After Republican parliamentary leader Vahram Baghdasaryan stated that the Republican majority would help Pashinyan be elected prime minister, Pashinyan indefinitely suspended the protests.[200]

Premiership[edit]

On May 8, 2018 Pashinyan was elected prime minister by the parliament in a 59-42 vote. 42 Republican MPs voted against him, while 13 in favor.[201] He declared "I will serve the people of Armenia and the Republic of Armenia" immediately after the vote.[202] His election sparked massive celebrations in Republic Square and elsewhere.[203]

As prime minister, commentators noted the unprecedented popular support Pashinyan had acquired.[20] Pashinyan "currently enjoys near-total support from a consolidated society," wrote Eduard Abrahamyan in May.[204] An opinion poll from early May indicated that 98% of respondents had a positive view of the movement that brought Pashinyan to power.[205] According to the same poll, Pashinyan's Way Out alliance would win a supermajority in the parliament if elections were held then with some 75% of respondents saying they would vote for Way Out.[206]

The day after his election as Prime Minister, Pashinyan traveled to Stepanakert to attend the Liberation Day and the Victory Day celebrations on his first official foreign visit in this position.[207] Pasinyan made his second foreign visit on 14 May 2018, meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort city of Sochi.[208]

Views and political positions[edit]

Ideology[edit]

Throughout his political career, Pashinyan has positioned himself as a post-ideological politician.[209] At a 2016 lecture at the American University of Armenia Pashinyan stated that "Political ideologies have yielded their position to challenges."[210] His critics have pointed to his perceived lack of clear ideology as a weakness.[211][212] Western sources such as RFE/RL, IRI, EFE, describe Pashinyan and the Way Out alliance as centrist.[213][214][215] According to political analyst Mikayel Zolyan Pashinyan and his closest allies are generally seen as liberal democrats, however, "it’s hard to clearly define his place in the country’s political spectrum [...] because Armenian politics in general is hard to describe in terms of traditional ideological categories."[216] Zolyan also noted that throughout the 2018 protests Pashinyan and his allies "used somewhat populist rhetoric with leftist overtones, rallying against corrupt elites and advocating for social justice."[217] According to Arsen Kharatyan, one of his allies, Pashinyan advocates meritocracy and egalitarianism.[218]

Political scientist Nerses Kopalyan compared Pashinyan to Emmanuel Macron and classified him as a radical centrist, or better, an "aggressive centrist." According to Kopalyan, Pashinyan supports liberal policies such as strong support for civic society, women's rights, social funding for education, public programs, and a strong emphasis on poverty alleviation and generally conservative policies such as his "obsession with law and order, and an unyielding application of the law to its fullest," austerity-based economic policies, and tax brackets for middle-class businesses.[219] Both newspapers edited by Pashinyan, Oragir and Haykakan Zhamanak, were considered by foreign observers as liberal.[220][221][222] Anahit Shirinyan, a fellow at Chatham House, suggested that the first Pashinyan government's "overall stance is liberal."[209] Hrant Bagratyan, former liberal prime minister sympathetic to Pashinyan, denounced his government's action plan a "social populist" one.[223] Pashinyan has distanced himself from the liberal label. He believes that "-isms" have lost their significance by citing the example of China, which "has combined communism and private property."[224][225] At a May 1, 2018 speech at the National Assembly Pashinyan stated: "I don’t consider myself a liberal. In the modern world, 'isms' have lost the meanings they used to have. Now is the era of securing a person’s happiness, and it’s not the 'isms' but people’s happiness and freedom that matter."[209]

Karabakh (Artsakh)[edit]

Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan consistently adheres to the hardline position that is dominant in Armenian politics.[226] In a July 2016 interview Pashinyan stated that "There is no land to hand over to Azerbaijan," referring to the Armenian-controlled territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.[227] He also claimed that Artsakh has its own claims which are controlled by Azerbaijan, namely the Shahumyan region.[204]

During the 2018 protests, he stated at Yerevan's Republic Square: "Long live the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which will finally become an inseparable part of Armenia." According to analyst Emil Sanamyan Pashinyan returned to the original goal of the Karabakh movement, from which the official position of Armenia had shifted in advocating Karabakh as an independent political entity.[20] Pashinyan believes that the negotiations and settlement around the Nagorno-Karabakh issues should be "undertaken within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group," however, he also claims that the "rhetoric used by current leadership of Azerbaijan doesn’t create an environment for a realistic settlement."[228] He stated in a May 2018 interview: "It is impossible to talk about mutual concessions in the resolution of the conflict when Azerbaijan is trying to destroy the Armenian statehood. Negotiations on mutual concessions will begin only when Azerbaijan recognizes the right of the people of Karabakh to self-determination."[229] Following the 2016 April War, Pashinyan stated that Armenia should not negotiate with Azerbaijan in any format that does not include a Karabakh Armenian (NKR) representative.[230]

In an April 2018 interview with BBC Pashinyan argued that there cannot be "constructive dialogue" between Armenia and Azerbaijan as long as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev talks about conquering Yerevan and "capitulation" of Armenia and Karabakh.[231] Pashinyan visited Stepanakert on May 9, 2018 the day after his election as Prime Minister, to take part in celebrations of the Liberation of Shushi and Victory Day. He stated at a meeting with Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan: "I believe that the format of the negotiations is flawed as long as one of the sides of the conflict—the Artsakh leadership—is not a part of the negotiations."[232]

Foreign policy[edit]

Pashinyan has been described by political commentator Grigor Atanesian as a "Moscow-skeptic democrat," who has "championed an Armenia-centric approach, arguing that there’s no place for pro-Russian or pro-Western political forces in the country."[233] In 2014 Pashinyan's Civil Contract party declared that they advocate the "no-no" policy regarding full integration into either Russia-led union or integration into the EU.[234] In an April 2018 interview he stated, "Many now present me in the Western media as a pro-Western politician. I have stated many times that I am not pro-West, not pro-Russia, not pro-US—I am a pro-Armenian politician."[231] During the 2018 protests, Pashinyan was cautious to frame it as the "first mass movement in the post-Soviet space in the last 20 years that is not associated with any foreign power."[233] Political analyst Mikayel Zolyan suggested that Pashinyan's criticism of Armenia's relations with Russia from the opposition was "not so much from a pro-Western point of view, but as a state-minded person whose priority is not geopolitical orientation but Armenia’s sovereignty."[216] Political scientist Simon Saradzhyan noted that no matter his personal views, Pashinyan realizes that Armenia has "no viable alternative but Russia as its guarantor of security, while it faces two hostile bordering states, Azerbaijan and Turkey."[235]

Relations with Russia[edit]

Nikol Pashinyan and Vladimir Putin in Sochi, 14 May 2018.

In 2013 he voted against Armenia's membership to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, claiming it threatened Armenia’s national security and sovereignty.[233] Pashinyan argued that Armenia's membership to the union could hurt Armenia's relations with its neighbors, including Iran.[236] RFE/RL noted in 2016 that Pashinyan's Civil Contract party "advocates a more neutral Armenian foreign policy" than Bright Armenia (led by MP Edmon Marukyan), and Republic (led by former PM Aram Sargsyan)—the two other members of the Way Out alliance—who have a pro-Western orientation.[237] In August 2017 RFE/RL noted that Pashinyan "repeatedly objected last year to some pro-Western politicians’ calls for Yerevan to leave Russian-dominated trade bloc."[238] Nonetheless, the Way Out Alliance parliamentary faction approved a draft statement by the parliament demanding the government to start a process of invalidating Armenia's accession treaty with the EEU.[239]

Pashinyan with Putin, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Saad Hariri and Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, 14 June 2018

In 2016 he criticized and voted against the Armenian-Russian agreement on creation of the Unified Regional Air Defence System in the Caucasus by arguing that Armenia should "develop a system of air defence of sovereign Armenia. Why should we transfer our own air defence system under the command of Russia?"[240] He stated that Russia "cannot be considered a real guarantor of Armenia´s security. This kind of agreement with Russia creates only the illusion of a strengthening of security."[241] In April 2018 he stated that he will not pull out of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).[231] In April 2018 he stated that he has "no problems with the Russian bases" in Armenia by citing Armenia's bad relations with Turkey. The Russian base in Gyumri, he said, guards the Turkish-Armenian border and Armenia needs it.[242]

Relations with Turkey[edit]

Pashinyan's Haykakan Zhamanak supported the normalization process that then-President Serzh Sargsyan and Turkish President Abdullah Gül initiated, however, he criticized the "government's way of pursuing it."[243] As Prime Minister, Pashinyan called Turkey's positions "illogical" regarding their precondition to solve the Karabakh conflict prior to establishing diplomatic relations. Pashinyan stated that his government remains committed to the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.[244]

Violence in politics[edit]

Pashinyan considers Nelson Mandela the most outstanding politician.[245] When asked whether he prefers the tactics of Che Guevara or Mahatma Gandhi Pashinyan stated that the tactics of struggle depend on the environment and circumstances in which people are located. "Che Guevara fought against a totalitarian regime, while Gandhi was trying to gain independence from the country that invented parliamentarism."[245] Eduard Aghajanyan, who became his chief of staff, compared Pashinyan to both Gandhi and Mandela.[246] His 2018 march from Gyumri to Yerevan was inspired by Gandhi's 1930 Salt March. He stated, "I understood that the best way to prevent violence is to be nonviolent."[58] During the 2018 protests, he stated that "We must rule out violence not only as action but also as counteraction" to use of force by government.[172]

2016 Yerevan police station standoff[edit]

On July 17, 2016 an armed radical opposition group, Founding Parliament, seized a police station in Yerevan demanding the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan. Pashinyan was one of the first people to speak with Varuzhan Avetisyan, leader of the group, inside the police station.[247] Pashinyan later demanded the authorities to allow him to meet with the jailed leader of the group, Jirair Sefilian, whose release his supporters demanded. Pashinyan stated that "We must do everything to prevent further bloodshed because the situation is in deadlock and can get out of hand at any moment." His party, Civil Contract, urged the authorities not to use force and negotiate with the self-proclaimed "rebels."[248] On July 20 night Pashinyan intervened and successfully prevented further clashes after more than 50 supporters of the gunmen were injured by government forces during an attempt to approach the seized police station. He was later told by gunmen not to give "instructions to people there."[249] Pashinyan called for Serzh Sargsyan's resignation on July 22 and release of political prisoners.[250] He called on Armenians to demonstrate in the streets demanding Sargsyan's resignation. Varuzhan Avetisyan, however, accused Pashinyan of hijacking their "armed uprising." He condemned Pashinyan and other politicians for "trying to take over [...] the popular movement and use the course and results of that movement for personal, partisan or other parochial purposes."[251] He also accused Pashinyan in waging a PR campaign.[252] After the armed group surrendered to the government forces, Pashinyan accused them of holding "secret negotiations" with Sargsyan.[253]

2015 constitutional referendum[edit]

Pashinyan and Civil Contract rejected the constitutional changes proposed by Serzh Sargsyan. They refused to discuss the changes stating, "Discussing one or another constitutional model means discussing one or another scenario of the reproduction of Serzh Sargsyan's regime." He also rejected other opposition claims that agreed with the transition to a parliamentary republic in theory: "If there is an institutional opposition in the country, then it can carry out regime change under both presidential and parliamentary systems and under any constitution."[254] He believed that even if the constitutional changes were not approved, Serzh Sargsyan's regime would continue: "As long as there is no force that would catch Sargsyan and his criminal gang by the hand, he will do whatever he wants regardless of the text of the Constitution."[255]

Repatriation[edit]

Pashinyan has put a great emphasis on repatriation from the Armenian diaspora since at least 2013.[256][257][258] He elaborated that it should not only include return of ethnic Armenians to Armenia, but also Armenian capital, ideas, programs. He declared, "The highest meaning of the existence of the Republic of Armenia is the centralization of human, financial, intellectual and economic potential of Armenians on their historic territory and ensuring their security."[259]

Image and reputation[edit]

A poster on a car in Yerevan depicting Pashinyan, May 2, 2018. The text reads: "Nikol Prime Minister"

Pashinyan has been widely described as charismatic[260][261][262][263] and a revolutionary.[264][218][246] The Guardian described him in 2018 as a "fiery political orator who has spent the past decade in street politics."[246] In 2012 RFE/RL noted that Pashinyan is "popular with many opposition supporters for his tough anti-government rhetoric."[125] Shake Avoyan of Voice of America noted that Pashinyan "crusaded against entrenched corruption and oligarchical influence for decades." His years of "street activism earned him the ire of establishment officials and legislators."[265] According to Richard Giragosian Pashinyan has a "unique combination that's rare in Armenia and, in fact, rare in the post-Soviet space: a combination of charisma and tactical expertise."[266] In the aftermath of the 2018 revolution Pashinyan rose to be perceived as a national hero in Armenian society.[267][268][269]

He has also been called a populist.[270][271] Matthew Bodner wrote in The New Republic: "His popularity was built on general populist sound bites."[272] Pashinyan has also been praised as a reformer.[204] David Ignatius, for instance, called the 2018 protest movement a reformist one, praising its nonviolent nature and its broad popular appeal.[273] Armenian-American writer Arto Vaun noted that in the aftermath of the 2018 protest movement Pashinyan grew to an "iconic stature."[274] Emil Sanamyan suggested that the revolution saw Pashinyan "transform from a lonely Don Quixote figure into a warrior-like Santa who managed to 'rescue' Armenia from a corrupt regime."[20]

In a classified document, released by WikiLeaks, Joseph Pennington, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan reported in March 2008: "We have long abstained from direct interaction with Pashinian and have not customarily invited him to embassy functions, as we viewed him as an unconstructive radical figure."[63] According to Pietro Shakarian, Pashinyan had a reputation of a "muckraking journalist."[275]

Vazgen Safaryan, head of the Progressive United Communist Party of Armenia, compared Pashinyan walk from Gyumri to Yerevan to Alexander Radishchev's Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow (1790) in which the latter described the economic conditions of the settlements he passed through.[276]

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External links[edit]

  • Official personal website (in Armenian) Link is down by 8th of May, 2018, GMT+1, time: 19:50 (edit wanted when or if up again)
  • Payqar official website and underground newspaper (in Armenian) Link is down by 8th of May, 2018, GMT+1, time: 19:50 (edit wanted when or if up again)
  • Haykakan Zhamanak website and newspaper. (in Armenian)
  • Armenaker Kamilion has a substantial number of English translations of Pashinyan's articles in Payqar.
Political offices
Preceded by
Karen Karapetyan
(Acting)
Prime Minister of Armenia
2018–present
Incumbent