Is corona dangerous information for democracy in Armenia?

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Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been exploited to undermine democracies throughout the globe, with governments utilizing this event to silence critics, improve state surveillance and tighten their political grip whereas making the most of the state of emergency to arrest protestors.
The EU neighbourhood is not any exception to this tendency. Even in international locations, similar to Armenia, the place preliminary optimism on “revolutionising” the political system has reigned because the change of presidency in 2018, a democratic backsliding has develop into apparent.
Facing criticism over dangerous administration of the COVID-19 outbreak and the following financial disaster, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan first resorted to a drastic change in energy buildings within the nation’s safety providers with the alternative of the Chief of the General Staff, the Head of Police and the Director of the National Security Service on 8 June.
To the shock of many, the 29-year Argishti Kyaramyan grew to become the brand new safety chief in a move described as a “political appointment” based mostly on loyalty reasonably than competence. Notably, Kyaramyan’s lack of expertise in safety providers and his speedy promotions, together with to the rank of colonel, got here below hearth.
While referring to a marriage occasion in breach of lockdown measures as a doable purpose for the dismissal of the previous Chief of the General Staff Artak Davtyan, Pashinyan didn’t present any clarification for the alternative of the 2 different top-ranking safety officers, Arman Sargsyan and Eduard Martirosyan.
These developments have been adopted by the detention of Armenia’s essential opposition occasion chief Gagik Tsarukyan on July 14, who had earlier referred to as for the federal government’s resignation. In parallel, some 250 pro-opposition protestors have been additionally detained for disobeying emergency rules. While Tsarukyan’s credentials will not be impeccable, the timing of his indictment and investigation has been extensively seen as having a political motive. After all, the rich businessman has some political cloud, having performed a significant position in organising snap elections in 2018, which introduced Pashinyan into energy.
By focusing on the one different political pressure, having fun with real public help and being able to unite the opposition events, Pashinyan’s actions would threat eliminating plurality whereas consolidating the one-party rule within the nation.
The Armenian authorities has prolonged the state of emergency till July 13 amid criticism concerning its dangerous administration of the well being disaster, together with late closure of borders, overwhelming of hospitals, early lifting of the lockdown regardless of growing circumstances, and censorship on reporting concerning the outbreak. In specific, Reporters Without Borders condemned the federal government’s try to “obstruct their work and their right to information”.
Pashinyan even went as far as to counsel disinfecting the virus with “homemade vodka” on the outset of the pandemic. The nation is now the regional chief in per capita infections, counting 29,820 circumstances and 521 deaths for a inhabitants of three million. After testing constructive for coronavirus on June 1, Pashinyan admitted to the failure of the federal government to implement containment measures.
The financial system additionally took its toll with the World Bank forecasting a 2.8% contraction and Fitch downgrading the nation’s credit standing to BB- with a detrimental outlook. At the identical time, worldwide watchdog Human Rights Watch raised concern over “very broad surveillance powers” of the Armenian authorities, which handed amendments limiting the best to privateness and permitting entry to delicate knowledge in late March.
Pashinyan’s present efforts aimed toward reaching a judicial reform are additionally seen by many commentators as a method of politicising the justice system by eradicating judges who’ve opposed him. In a session boycotted by opposition events on June 22, the federal government handed a constitutional modification, which might result in the discharge of numerous judges of Armenia’s Constitutional Court and the alternative of the courtroom chair.
The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, nevertheless, referred to as for a gradual reasonably than quick elimination of judges and courtroom chair as a result of present composition of the parliament overwhelmingly dominated by the ruling occasion. Moreover, opposite to the federal government’s earlier guarantees, these amendments weren’t backed by a referendum, which was postponed to a later stage as a result of pandemic.
Given these circumstances, pushing forward with the judicial overhaul might truly undermine the rule of regulation and the independence of courts whereas eliminating democratic checks and balances.
Such makes an attempt to intervene with the independence of the judiciary and to silence dissent whereas tightening the facility grip and curbing civil liberties has nothing to do with bettering public well being and assembly citizen’s expectations. In reality, they represent an enormous obstacle to a wholesome democracy.
The EU shall be vigilant to those alarming developments in its neighbourhood whereas growing its efforts to make sure larger respect for its elementary values and freedoms, within the absence of which it can not obtain “strategic, ambitious, flexible and inclusive” relations with its Eastern neighbours, as said within the EU Council conclusions of May 2020.

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