ArmInfo.ArmInfo talked with presidential candidate in 2020 Artsakh elections, the former prime minister of the NKR Arayik Harutyunyan about the recent events in Artsakh and Armenia about electoral programs and other issues.
Mr. Harutyunyan, you officially declared your intention to run for the presidency of Artsakh long before the elections to be held in the spring of 2020. What is the reason for such haste, and is this not a false start?
No, it is not, it was a carefully considered decision. First of all, the very day when I officially announced my intention to run, was not chosen by chance. I announced this on May 18 - on the day of Lachin’s liberation, I took direct part in the battles for Lachin, and this is a very important day for me and for the entire Armenian people, because it symbolizes the reunification of Artsakh with his mother Armenia.
In addition, pre-election activity is already felt in Artsakh. My statement made it possible to “feel” public sentiment, to feel a great, even unexpectedly greater support of the electorate. And this is especially gratifying considering that for many years I headed the government of the republic, therefore, to a certain extent, all the socio-economic expectations of the people and disappointments were connected with me. That is, public support in my case means that the population of the country positively assesses my work as prime minister, and then the state minister of the republic.
In addition, by declaring my intention to run, I was able to see how my competitors began to position themselves in the presidential race.
And in your opinion, will the presidential elections in Artsakh be multipolar or bipolar?
I believe that they will be multipolar, and this is good, because in the case of bipolar elections there is always a greater possibility of post-election escalations.
How do you assess the pre-election situation in Artsakh?
Fortunately, the situation is calm yet, there are no destabilizing elements. The main thing is that the processes do not exceed the framework of political norms. Apart from individual incidents, which I hope will not affect the whole situation.
Mr. Harutyunyan, you mentioned that, having declared your intention to run in elecitons, you felt a great public support. It is interesting, what is the reason for this support - your personality and programs, or the fact that you are the first of the Artsakh politicians to openly declare his full support for the new authorities of Armenia and continue to adhere to this course?
Neither one nor the other factor should be excluded. Public expectations are always disparate. However, there is a consensus in Artsakh society that the authorities of the two Armenian republics should be in good, trusting relations, supporting each other. But, as I have repeatedly stated, in elections, both presidential and parliamentary, emphasis should be placed on election programs, the choice should be made consciously, on the basis of the programs presented.
What about the Artsakh establishment, do they hold the same opinion? I ask this question as recently talks activated about existence of a certain tension between the authorities of the two Armenian republics:
First, I would like to note that the main thing here is the position of the people. In addition, I don’t see any real tension, any problems between the elites of the two Armenian republics. Contrary to popular belief, I must assure that there is no interference of the Armenian authorities in the affairs of Artsakh.
And what about the former authorities? There are rumors, that to a certain extent Serzh Sargsyan influences the actions of the Artsakh authorities.
These rumors do not correspond to reality. I assure you of this with all responsibility. If someone believes that today Serzh Sargsyan has any influence on the processes in Artsakh, he is deeply mistaken.
Mr. Harutyunyan, perhaps Serzh Sargsyan personally does not affect the processes in Artsakh, possbily, as you say, he does not have such aspirations, but, nevertheless, there are serious figures in the Artsakh establishment who do not accept the current course of the Armenian authorities and support the former ruling regime. In your opinion, may this factor lead to an internal political aggravation in Artsakh before and after the elections?
No, I do not think so. We have repeatedly stated that we will in civilized manner, within the framework of the law, put in their place all those who will try to take destructive steps.
Laying them down on the asphalt..?
Yes, if necessary, we will resort to this radical measure. And I'm not joking. Already during my election meetings, I stated that all those who would try to destabilize the situation in Artsakh would receive serious opposition, and I am glad that the agenda I proposed has found a response in the society.
Mr. Harutyunyan, you became the first Artsakh politician to declare his unconditional support to the new authorities of Armenia, what is the reason for such a step?
The agenda proposed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is quite acceptable for me, its implementation will lead to the creation of Armenia of my dream.
A year has passed, do you see the prerequisites for the implementation of this program?
Yes, definitely: I am sure that the right path has been chosen. My analysis as well as economic indicators suggest that our hopes were not only fulfilled, they exceeded our expectations. Look, after the revolution and the major political processes, the economy basically stagnates, and in our case this not only did not happen, but significant growth was recorded. If someone considers the growth of 60bln drams under given circumstances to be insignificant, he is mistaken. However one should not expect any serious economic surge in the next year or two. We just need to stick to the intended path and be more resolute in our steps.
Recently, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the need to establish a parliamentary commission to study the events of the April 2016 war: How justified and expedient is this decision, in your opinion?
You see, the April war still raises questions in Armenian society, and answers to them have not been given. In this regard, these questions should find their answers in order to close this topic. Perhaps this commission will help dispel public doubts forever. If Pashinyan proposed to set up this commission, it means that he had grounds for that. I do not think that this decision is based on political motives.
Often, various accusations related to the Karabakh issue are addressed to the leadership of Armenia. Do you share this point of view?
I am absolutely sure that all these conversations, in particular, the accusations of surrendering the territories, the defeatist policy on the Karabakh issue, and attempts to destabilize the situation in Artsakh are groundless and absurd. Moreover, it can be said that the position of the current authorities of the Republic of Armenia on the Karabakh issue is even more rigid. Until now, there has not been a single case in which the new authorities of the Republic of Armenia would not listen to the voice of the Artsakh counterparts on the Karabakh settlement.
Nikol Pashinyan also stated that there are certain forces that are interested in inciting a conspiratorial war, even the surrender of some territories with the aim of placing the responsibility for this on the Armenian government. What do you think of this statement?
If the Prime Minister of Armenia voiced this thought, it means he had appropriate grounds and fears.
How do you assess Pashinyan’s policy on the Karabakh settlement?
I fully share it, our approaches to the issue of Karabakh settlement are identical. I also think that the question finally has to be settled in accordance with the will and decision of the people.
As for the agenda raised recently by some forces on the uniting of Artsakh with Armenia, I can say that this is our dream. But we must understand that at this stage we simply cannot “digest” such a decision. Therefore, in this situation, we should display reasonableness.
You are considered as a politician representing the previous ruling regime in Armenia and current Artsakh establishment, but at the same time you became the first of the Artsakh politicians who openly declared their support for the new authorities of Armenia and continue to do so. Therefore, political analysts are unsure about your position. So what course are you pursuing, de facto?
I do not represent either the previous or the current political team, I am an independent politician with my own programs and ideas. I have a concrete, very real and very ambitious social program. This is a kind of synthesis of traditional and modern socialism. Perhaps, at first glance, it seems hard to implement. But I am sure it is realistic. In order to become a social country, it is necessary to conduct a targeted social policy in the fields of education, health care and housing. It is necessary to develop a roadmap for establishing an atmosphere of social justice in Artsakh.
You have been prime minister and then state minister of Artsakh for many years, why didn’t you implement these programs then?
Because as Prime Minister and State Minister I implemented the socio-economic programs of President Bako Sahakyan. I understand the undertone of your question, and even now I am often asked the question why these programs were not implemented before. There is only one answer, there were no such opportunities before, now they are. When I approved the budget of Artsakh, it amounted to 32 billion drams, now it has reached 115 billion drams. In the case of coming to power, I intend to bring it to 145 billion drams in two years.
You have stated that, if elected, you will implement a completely new course, different from the previous ones. Please, indicate the main priorities of your election program.
First, it is the transition to completely free health care through the introduction of a health insurance system. Secondly, special emphasis will be placed on subsidized housing construction. I assure you, Artsakh will turn into a big construction site. And it will be an ambitious program. The mortgage programs currently operating in Armenia and Artsakh are economically, but not socially sound. The basis of this model is the binding of social programs with a minimum consumer basket. That is, if the family income does not exceed the minimum consumer basket, the state in the areas of health, housing and education will assist these families. Today in Artsakh 99% of families are of this category, and it turns out that all of them will enjoy these benefits. Over the years, when the incomes of the population rise, state assistance will also decrease, but this should not be expected in the next 4-5 years.
What about investment policy, what programs do you have in this area?
We have developed a lot of new investment projects that will be implemented by our current and new partners. With their help, we will be able to implement all the planned programs and ensure high rates of economic growth. I do not even doubt it. But this is a double-edged sword, it is the high economic indicators of the Artsakh government that have attracted new investors to our country.
Would you send some of the investors to Armenia?
To the best of our power, we also assist the government of Armenia.
Mr. Harutyunyan, are the authorities of Armenia and Artsakh expected to announce the support of this or that candidate in the elections?
As for Artsakh President, as far as I am informed, he does not intend to make such a statement. Bako Sahakyan intends to act as a guarantor of holding fair and democratic elections.
As for the Armenian authorities, then everything is logical. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hinted rather transparently that the people of Artsakh should support those forces that have supported the legitimate authorities of the Republic of Armenia from the very beginning. You see, in Armenia and Artsakh, the authorities cannot represent different political poles.
Recall the year 1991, the processes taking place then. At that time, our losses were caused precisely by disagreements between the authorities of the Republic of Armenia and the NKR. It is for this reason that we lost Shaumyan and Martakert.
Mr. Harutyunyan, if you win the election, by what criteria do you intend to implement personnel policy?
First of all, the emphasis should be placed on the public authority of this or that person, his image, and trust. Of course, professionalism will be taken into account. But for me, first of all, the priority will be the question of public confidence in one or another leader. We will do our best to make the society satisfied with our personnel policy.
Mr. Harutyunyan, as a supporter of the course of the current authorities of Armenia, do you, if elected, intend to launch a large-scale fight against corruption, to initiate retrospective cases on corruption abuse?
No, there is no such need in Artsakh. We have always had a tough anti-corruption policy. But, nevertheless, we intend to tighten it.
What about transitional justice? Armenia intends to implement this institution. What will you do if elected?
I do not see such a need in Artsakh either. In Armenia, there is a need for radical reforms, in Artsakh - exclusively evolutionary.
And finally how do you assess the situation on the front line?
It is more than stable.
Will the elections and the election race affect the situation on the Line of Contact?
To tell the truth, the situation in Artsakh itself is of little interest to Baku, they plan their actions commensurate with the processes in Armenia.