Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met with a senior representative of the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) late on Monday to discuss his plans to force early parliamentary elections in Armenia.
Citing his bloc’s landslide victory in the September 23 mayoral vote in Yerevan, Pashinian moved last week to speed up the conduct of such elections widely seen as critical for his political future. He said political uncertainty resulting from his team’s modest presence in the current Armenian parliament is hampering badly needed private investments in the domestic economy. The polls may have to be held before the end of this year, he said.
Pashinian announced on Monday morning that he is starting consultations for that purpose with political groups represented in the National Assembly. “I hope that we will reach an agreement with political forces and there will be no need to appeal to citizens for support,” he said in a video address to his supporters.
The premier went on to warn: “But if there is such a need I hope that you all will be ready to support this political process in one way or another.
Late in the evening, Pashinian met with Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, the largest in the National Assembly, at an outdoor café in Yerevan.
“This was our first contact on the issue of pre-term parliamentary elections,” Pashinian told reporters after the meeting. “We exchanged thoughts on the issue and agreed to launch a negotiation process.”
“We believe that the elections should be held as soon as possible, let’s say in two or three months,” he said, adding that the HHK remains reluctant to agree to the parliament’s dissolution in the coming weeks or months.
“We did not sit down to make decisions,” Baghdasarian said for his part. “We discussed future negotiations. We agreed in what format we will be meeting.”
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said earlier in the day that fresh elections could be genuinely free and fair only after the continuing “post-revolutionary euphoria” in the country is over.
Sharmazanov also argued that Pashinian’s government has still not come up with promised draft amendments to the Armenian Electoral Code. “Where is the [amendments to the] Electoral Code? It hasn’t even reached the National Assembly,” he said.
The government’s policy program approved by lawmakers in June calls for the holding of snap general elections within a year, after “substantial reforms of the Electoral Code and the electoral system.”
Gevorg Petrosian, a senior lawmaker from Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), emphasized this fact when he spoke out against an “artificially early conduct of the elections.” He also challenged Pashinian to name those investors who are purportedly unwilling to do business in Armenia before such polls.
More importantly, Petrosian criticized Pashinian’s implicit threats to stage street protests aimed at forcing the parliament to pave the way for its dissolution. That, he said, amounts to calling for a “violent overthrow of the constitutional order.”
The BHK strongly supported Pashinian when he similarly pressured the parliament to elect him prime minister in May. Tsarukian’s party, which controls the second largest parliamentary faction, subsequently received five ministerial posts in Pashinian’s cabinet. Its relationship with the premier has cooled in recent weeks.
Vahe Enfiajian, another senior BHK figure, said although his party has not yet been approached by Pashinian it is ready to discuss the election issue with him.