Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called on voters in Yerevan to reaffirm the results of last spring’s “velvet revolution” in an upcoming ballot in the capital – the first major election in Armenia since the change of government.
Twelve parties and alliances are contesting the ballot in which Yerevan’s municipal assembly and eventually mayor will be elected.
A pro-Pashinian alliance in the elections called My Step is led by popular actor and producer Hayk Marutian.
Speaking at a rally launching the My Step campaign on Monday night Pashinian said that more than just a mayoral position and Marutian’s candidacy were at stake.
“Those who vote for My Step and for Hayk Marutian vote for early parliamentary elections,” he said.
The holding of early parliamentary elections within a year is part of the program of the Pashinian government approved last May.
Under the current Constitution, snap general elections can be held only if the prime minister resigns and lawmakers twice fail to elect his or her replacement.
In the past several weeks Pashinian publicly spoke of scenarios in which former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that still dominates the National Assembly could break political agreements and try to install another prime minister if he steps down as prime minister. As an additional safeguard he, therefore, suggested a constitutional amendment that would allow the parliament to dissolve itself.
Addressing the pro-Marutian rally, Pashinian warned other political parties and groups, which he did not name, against planning a “counterrevolution.”
“Some political forces that present themselves as advocates of the revolution are conducting negotiations with the HHK for the latter to help them with their vote-rigging resource,” Pashinian asserted. “Come to your senses, madmen!”
The head of the Armenian government said, therefore, the September 23 vote has an “exceptionally important political meaning.” “As at these elections people, citizens of Armenia at polling stations should reaffirm the victory that they registered in Republic Square…, reaffirm people’s power, the victory of the people’s nonviolent velvet revolution in Armenia,” Pashinian underscored.
My Step’s candidate Marutian, who was one of the active Pashinian supporters during peaceful antigovernment protests in spring, was criticizes by political rivals last week for his remarks in which he made a division of the political spectrum into “whites and blacks” ahead of the Yerevan elections.
“It’s a very clear situation in Armenia today. There are white forces and black forces. I want to officially state that we are white forces, and all those who do not want us to succeed are black forces,” Marutian said on September 2.
The remarks were swiftly construed by representatives of the former government as discrimination against part of society that does not share the ideas of the political team that came to power in Armenia in the wake of last spring’s ‘velvet revolution’.
Marutian later publicly regretted having used the expression. Pashinian then weighed in on the issue, acknowledging that Marutian’s remarks were “not quite correct.”
The HHK is not participating in the Yerevan elections. Its senior member Taron Markarian resigned in July after serving as Yerevan mayor for seven years. The Council of Elders could not elect a new mayor, triggering early elections.