Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian threatened on Tuesday to resume his street protests “on an even larger scale” if the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) refuses to hand over power to his popular movement.
Pashinian again demanded that the HHK-led majority in the Armenian parliament appoint "a candidate of the people” as interim prime minister before calling fresh general elections. He vowed to complete his declared “velvet revolution” one day after forcing the HHK’s chairman, Serzh Sarkisian, to resign as prime minister.
“If we managed to achieve Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation, we are confident that we can also make the Republican Party obey the will of the people. If not, we will continue our actions on an even larger scale,” he told a news conference held for foreign media.
Pashinian said this will be “the only theme” of his planned talks with acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian. He said Karapetian, who is the HHK’s first deputy chairman, must not retain his post even if he quits the ruling party.
“I am speaking on behalf of the Armenian people,” claimed the 42-year-old organizer of 11-day massive demonstrations which resulted in Sarkisian’s resignation.
Karapetian said, meanwhile, that he and Pashinian “will try to find solutions” at a meeting with the Yerevan-based ambassadors of foreign states held earlier in the day. “The agenda is open and … each side can come up with its proposals,” he said.
“At any rate, I want to again stress that all solutions must be civilized and logical and conform to the constitution and other laws. I can assure you that I will do my best to ensure the unity and solidarity of our people and expect the same from our partners,” added the former business executive who headed the Armenian government until being replaced by Sarkisian on April 17.
Senior HHK figures have so far commented evasively on Pashinian’s demands for a “peaceful and full transfer of power” to the opposition movement dominated by his Civil Contract party. Representatives of other Armenian factions have also sounded cautious, calling for a multi-party “dialogue.”
Pashinian on Tuesday did not deny his desire to serve as prime minister at least until fresh elections which he said must be held “as soon as possible.” He said the interim premier must be chosen by his supporters rallying in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.
Karapetian lived in Russian and held senior executive positions in local subsidiaries of the Gazprom energy giant for five years preceding his appointment as prime minister in September 2016. The 54-year-old technocrat is thought to have enjoyed the backing of the Russian government.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev phoned Karapetian late on Monday to discuss the political turmoil in Armenia, Russia’s main regional ally. Medvedev was reported to stress the importance of “keeping the situation in the legal constitutional field.”
Speaking in English and Russian, Pashinian insisted that he is not worried about possible Russian support for Karapetian’s continued tenure. “Russia is friendly country … and we have good relations between Russia and Armenia, and I’m sure that Russia will respect decisions of the Armenian people,” he said.
The former journalist said in that regard that he will not reconsider Armenia’s close ties with Russia or make other “sharp geopolitical moves.” He specifically made clear that he will not seek the withdrawal of Russian troops stationed in Russia or pull his country out of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) if he comes to power.
As recently as last fall, the Yelk alliance comprising Pashinian’s Civil Contract and two other opposition parties put a motion in the parliament demanding Armenia’s exit from the EEU. Pashinian declared at the time that the EEU membership has dealt “very serious blows” to his country’s sovereignty. Yerevan must sign instead an Association Agreement with the European Union, he said.
Pashinian did note on Tuesday the existence of “problems” in Russian-Armenian relations. But he stressed: “We intend to solve, rather than criticize, these problems through negotiations and I am confident that we will succeed.”