View of the Steapanakert rally on Aug. 5 Image from Nikol Pashinyan’s Facebook.

Analysis by Emil Sanamyan

By 2050 Armenia’s population should reach five million people and its economy grow 15-fold to over $180 billion in GDP. At least five Armenian companies will have output in excess of $10 billion.  Armenia’s military and intelligence services should be some of the world’s strongest. Armenian footballers will qualify and take top places in European and World Cups and Olympians win dozens of medals.

These were among the lofty goals declared by Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan at a public rally in Stepanakert on August 5.

Along with concrete material objectives, Pashinyan also argued for a philosophical transformation. “Supporting one’s family cannot be a justification for corruption. Family interests cannot be put in opposition to public interests. ‘Armenia is my home, the people are my family’ should become the new Armenia’s founding principle.”

Pashinyan’s choice of Artsakh’s capital as the venue for declaring these ‘national agenda‘ goals was likely conditioned by several factors.

First, it was yet another opportunity to underscore national unity, with the rally beginning and ending with the late 1980s Karabakh Movement’s chant of “Miatsum”* or “Unification.”  Pashinyan reiterated once again that he sees Artsakh as part of Armenia, even if not yet politically integrated into the Republic of Armenia.

It was the first such public address made by any leader of Armenia in Stepanakert and in that sense it was unprecedented. The goals declared were also more ambitious than those of Serzh Sargsyan, who sought two years ago to have Armenia grow to four million people by 2040.

Another reason for the choice of venue was likely circumstantial: on August 6, Stepanakert will host the opening ceremony of the 7th Pan-Armenian Games held every four years, involving athletes from around the world, and that Pashinyan planned to attend.

Finally, the speech came at a politically sensitive time for Artsakh and its government’s relations with Yerevan. NKR’s leadership is being challenged by former Karabakh Defense Army commander Samvel Babayan, whose supporters were among the rally participants and booed president Bako Sahakyan during his remarks. For his part, Pashinyan was openly unhappy with Sahakyan, after he helped secure bail for ex-president Robert Kocharyan, whom Pashinyan wants jailed for the 2008 electoral crackdown.

Shortly before returning to penitentiary in June, Kocharyan accused Pashinyan of treating Karabakh as a “burden” rather than an asset. Pashinyan’s Stepanakert speech went a long way to respond to this claim.

And now that Sahakyan needs Pashinyan’s help to keep Babayan at bay, he is likely to stay out of Kocharyan’s prosecution. A joint rally was an opportunity for a “new deal” of sorts, renewing the pact first declared last year, when Pashinyan backed Sahakyan amid protests in Stepanakert in June 2018.

*Incidentally, “Miatsum” was also the name of а clandestine organization led by Robert Kocharyan in Karabakh in 1988-91.

Emil Sanamyan tweets @emil_sanamyan.