The war of words between Nikol Pashinian and his coalition partners continued on Thursday when a leading member of Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) accused the Armenian prime minister of blackmail.
Pashinian launched verbal attacks on his nominal allies following the start of campaigning for the September 23 municipal elections in Yerevan He claimed last week that “political forces portraying themselves as guardians of the revolution” are secretly collaborating with the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) in a bid to get more votes.
The allegations were rejected by top representatives of the BHK and Republic, another party represented in the Armenian government.
Republic leader Aram Sarkisian said on Tuesday that Pashinian is alienating political groups that helped him come to power. He warned that they might stop supporting Pashinian’s plans to force snap parliamentary elections in the months ahead.
Such polls are critical for the political future of the premier, who fully controls only a handful of seats in the current Armenian parliament.
Pashinian doubled down on his rhetoric at an election campaign rally held late on Wednesday.He again claimed that unnamed forces tried to cut election-related deals with the HHK. He also warned them against blocking the fresh general elections.
“The decision to hold pre-term parliamentary elections was not made by me, it was made by the people,” Pashinian told the rally. “He who goes against that decision will face a political demise in Armenia.”
“Those forces that say they could vote against fresh elections must get no votes in these elections because they are against the people,” he declared.
Naira Zohrabian, the BHK’s mayoral candidate in Yerevan, angrily denounced Pashinian’s remarks as she campaigned in the city’s Erebuni district on Thursday. “Enough with threatening us with the ‘people,’ enough with constantly blackmailing us with the ‘people,’” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“Whatever decision we make [on snap elections] it will be our decision, it will not be made under pressure from anyone or as a result of any blackmail,” said Zohrabian.
Earlier this week, the BHK accused Pashinian loyalists of conducting, through online and social media, a smear campaign against Zohrabian. The Pashinian camp denied the accusations.