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Opposition Sets Ultimatum For Armenian PM To Resign


Armenia -- Opposition supporters demonstrate at Liberty Square in Yerevan, December 5, 2020.

A coalition of 16 Armenian opposition parties gave Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian until Tuesday to step down or face nationwide protests as it again rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan on Saturday.

Holding their biggest rally so far, opposition leaders stood by their demands for the formation of an interim government and conduct of snap general elections. They again blamed Pashinian for sweeping Armenian territorial losses in and around Nagorno-Karabakh suffered during the recent war with Azerbaijan.

The anti-government street protests were sparked by a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the six-week war on November 10. The opposition forces accuse Pashinian’s government of mishandling the war and capitulating to Baku.

They held their latest demonstration three days after nominating veteran politician Vazgen Manukian as a caretaker prime minister who they believe should prepare for and hold the elections within a year.

“We could have prevented the war,” Manukian told thousands of people who gathered in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. “We could have won the war. We could have ended the war earlier and with minor losses.”

Manukian made clear that his interim administration would not walk away from the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement. He said it would seek instead to ensure that the agreement’s ambiguous provisions are interpreted in Armenia’s favor.

The crowd then marched to Pashinian’s official residence tightly guarded by riot police and other security forces.

Ishkhan Saghatelian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), read out the opposition ultimatum there. “Nikol must go. Period,” he said.

Saghatelian warned that the opposition will launch a nationwide campaign of “civil disobedience” if Pashinian fails to announce his resignation by Tuesday noon.

The idea of an interim government and fresh elections is also backed by President Armen Sarkissian and a growing number of public figures. Pashinian has rejected it so far.

The prime minister again signaled no plans to resign or agree to snap polls in a televised address to the nation aired on Saturday morning. He said he is not clinging to power and only wants to ensure that “the people stay in power.”

Pashinian emphasized the fact that Armenia’s last parliamentary elections, held in December 2018 and won by his My Step bloc, were widely recognized as democratic. In an apparent reference to the country’s former leaders, he said that “some circles” want to come to power through a fraudulent vote.

President Sarkissian insisted, meanwhile, that Armenia is in a “deep post-war crisis.” “The government cannot act in the spirit of the [public] mood of 2018,” he said in a statement issued later in the day. “Today’s reality is completely different.”

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