Call for transparency, divisive rhetoric and political polarization: Democracy Watch

Call for transparency, divisive rhetoric and political polarization: Democracy Watch



The past week saw a surge in the use of divisive and polarizing language by key political figures in Armenia. The government’s decision earlier this month to initiate the delimitation process with Azerbaijan has sparked a significant public backlash, as many see the government’s current approach as unilateral and devoid of consensus. Here are three examples:

  1. On April 21, lawmaker Vahagn Alexanyan, from the ruling Civil Contract party, called the opposition and those involved in the ongoing protests in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush region a “fifth column.”
  2. On April 25, opposition lawmaker Anna Mkrtchyan called Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a “Turk,” an inflammatory word choice in the Armenian context given the legacy of genocide.
  3. Also on April 25, Pashinyan’s deputy chief of staff, Taron Chakhoyan, called the Tavush protesters a “fifth column.”


Armenia’s political elites — both ruling party officials and opposition figures — are now resorting to a language of treason and loyalty. Such rhetoric portrays domestic political rivals as genuine security risks. In each instance, the objective is to divide political opponents by developing conspiracy theories and narratives that influence both political supporters and the general public. This delegitimization of political adversaries constricts the space for constructive political discourse and lays the foundation for undemocratic and anti-constitutional maneuvering. It is particularly troubling that ruling party lawmakers and officials are involved in this behavior.


On April 23, the Yerkrapah Union of Volunteers, Armenia’s largest and most influential veterans’ group, attempted to disperse protests in Tavush against the handover of four abandoned border villages to Azerbaijan. This action likely had government involvement. Sasun Mikayelyan, a close associate of Pashinyan, heads the Yerkrapah Union. Several protesters were detained, and one was arrested, but none of the Yerkrapah members were held.


The Yerkrapah Union, initially established to protect Armenia’s borders, has been repeatedly used by successive Armenian governments for domestic political purposes. The continuation of this practice after the 2018 Velvet Revolution raises concerns about the current government’s commitment to democratic principles.


The use of paramilitary organizations is common in autocratic states to safeguard government officials’ interests. This practice can pose risks to the constitutional order, as these organizations often operate outside the constitution, without accountability,institutional control, or oversight.


GRECO calls Armenia for greater transparency in officials’ discretionary expenditures


The Group of States against Corruption, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, has urged Armenia’s authorities to enhance transparency with regard to discretionary expenditures of key officials, including the prime minister, parliament speaker, and president. Earlier this month, GRECO requested that the procurement process for officials’ expenses be made public again.

In 2016, Armenia adopted new regulations that classify discretionary expenditures, including senior officials’ transportation, catering, and entertainment expenses confidential.

The adoption of this law was preceded by a number of controversial procurements in 2016. Since then, successive governments have refused to provide any information about any procurement expenses. Even after 2018, this regulation remains unchanged, exacerbating corruption risks.


Democracy Watch is a joint initiative by CivilNet and the Regional Center for Democracy and Security, a Yerevan-based think tank.