What is left of the revolution in Armenia | TIME ONLINE


One year ago Armenia The "Velvet Revolution": On April 23, Sersch Sargsyan, who had been leading the country increasingly authoritarian for a decade, bowed to the peaceful protests of hundreds of thousands against nepotism and corruption. Former journalist and opposition politician Nikol Paschinjan came to power as prime minister – a fresh start after 20 years of corrupt rule by the Republican Party. But the euphoria of those who wanted to change at the time has now suffered. "We are too far from the idea of ​​building a new country together," says human rights activist Zara Hovhannisjan.

The 44-year-old former journalist coordinates projects against violence against women of a coalition of ten human rights organizations and women's centers. Hovhannisjan also demonstrated and hoped for change. Many of their comrades from back then are still enthusiastic about Pashinjan, who came to power with the promise of a citizen-oriented reform policy. They sit today as MPs in parliament, his alliance "Mein Schritt" won more than 70 percent of the vote in the parliamentary election in December, the Republicans failed at the five percent hurdle. She is not disappointed, says Hovhannisjan, "in no case, because the oligarchic system was finally blown up, but there is a regret about the missed opportunities."

For example, the constitutional reform, which a factual one-party system should make impossible, is out of the question for the time being. The new parliament has not even debated the proposal promoted by Hovhannisyan and other activists. Or the police and the secret service: they are directly subordinate to the head of government, the deputies can not control the security organs independently.

In his administration, Pashinjan has reduced the number of ministries from 17 to 12, which may be more efficient and cost less, but also cost thousands of civil servants their jobs. Of the leftist demands, which the present Prime Minister raised as a spokesman for the revolutionaries, hardly anything is to be seen in his concrete policy. Before that, it was all about redistribution, but now it's more likely to be a liberal economic policy that is supposed to reward performance.

Particularly controversial in these days Paschinjans planned tax reform. It provides for a fixed tax rate for all income, 23 percent for the millionaire as for the day laborer instead of the previously three levels of 23 to 36 percent income tax. According to estimates, only slightly more than a third of the Armenians will benefit, the rich are likely to become even richer. In addition, the effect would be aggravated by a proposal from the Ministry of Finance: the lower revenue of the state after the reform should be compensated by an increase in excise duties on cigarettes, alcoholic and high-sugar drinks.

The faces in power are different, but otherwise?

For Hovhannisjan, this is a "politics more reminiscent of a classic change of power, not a revolution." For those in power, "revolution has been enough to change the faces of decision-makers."

And this new power elite has once rewarded itself. For example, the newly elected mayor of the capital, Yerevan, paid his employees more than $ 970,000 in bonuses at the New Year celebration. Other mayors and also ministers allowed selected employees and above all themselves premium payments, often in the amount of an additional monthly salary. Above all, the Minister of Finance: He himself paid out $ 10,000 bonus, with a monthly salary of $ 1,600. And his godchild, who is also his deputy, gave him 14,500 dollars – one of the highest known premiums. Many of the payments have been made public partly by pressure from journalists or activists, but not all.

Such bonuses are generally common within the state administration: In addition to the 13th monthly salary officials get additional money because they have "worked well". However, there is no law that governs this practice. And so financial arbitrariness reigns everywhere – which does not exactly alleviate the dissatisfaction of the citizens and actually committed officials. Some who are in the criticism, try it with charity. The new head of state water supply, for example, donated her $ 1,000 bonus to the foundation "My Step" of Paschinjans wife, others followed the example. As honorable as this initially seems, it also raises some unpleasant questions.