Senior lawmakers from former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), which holds a majority of seats in the Armenian parliament, on Wednesday spoke out against fresh parliamentary elections sought by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his political allies.
Pashinian called for such elections immediately after tens of thousands of his supporters demonstrating in the streets of Yerevan forced Sarkisian to resign on April 23. He said on Tuesday that he expects them to be held later this year.
However, Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief HHK spokesman and a deputy parliament speaker, said that any talk of snap polls is premature now. “Pre-term parliamentary elections are called when there is a political crisis, when the government is facing insurmountable obstacles to implementing its programs,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“We have repeatedly said that we will not be artificially impeding the work of Pashinian’s government,” he said. He also argued that Pashinian himself is in no rush to force elections within the next one or two months.
Gevorg Kostanian, the chairman of a key parliament committee also representing the HHK, likewise objected to an early dissolution of the National Assembly. “If the political situation is such that government and opposition actions are only aimed at the country’s well-being, then I am deeply convinced that there is no need for fresh elections,” he said.
The idea of snap polls is supported not only by Pashinian’s Yelk alliance but also the two other parliamentary minority factions: the Tsarukian Bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Both groups have received ministerial posts in the new government headed by the protest leader.
Naira Zohrabian, a leading member of the Tsarukian Bloc, insisted that the current parliament has lost its legitimacy as a result of the democratic “velvet revolution.” Pashinian is therefore right to press for the holding of general elections this year, she said.
Zohrabian said the HHK is reluctant to agree to the elections because it knows that it would suffer a crushing defeat. “If the two main tools for their reproduction -- administrative resources and money – are not used, then I think only those considering themselves ideological members of the party will vote for the Republicans,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We all understand that their number will be very small.”
Like Pashinian’s Yelk alliance and Dashnaktsutyun, the bloc led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian believes that the parliament must call general elections after amending the Armenian Electoral Code. Several provisions of the code are widely believed to have facilitated the HHK’s victory in the last elections held in April 2017.
Under the Armenian constitution, pre-term general elections will have to be called if the prime minister resigns and the parliament twice fails to elect a new premier or if the government’s policy program is not approved by most lawmakers.