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Opposition Protests Resume As Pashinian Ignores Ultimatum To Resign


Armenia -- Opposition supporters block a street in Yerevan to demand Prime Minister Niol Pashinian's resignation, December 8, 2020.

A coalition of 16 Armenian opposition parties urged supporters to again take to the streets on Tuesday after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ignored their ultimatum to resign and pave the way for snap parliamentary elections.

The parties making up a “homeland salvation front” issued the ultimatum as they rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan on Friday. They gave Pashinian until Tuesday noon to step down or face a nationwide campaign of “civil disobedience” over his handling of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh that resulted in heavy Armenian casualties and territorial losses.

The prime minister has continued to reject these demands through his aides and political allies. They have said that he is determined to stick to his six-month plan to “restore stability” in Armenia.

“As you can see, Nikol Pashinian has not tendered resignation,” Ishkhan Saghatelian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), said in a video address to opposition supporters. “Therefore, from now on, until 5 p.m., Armenia’s citizens have a legitimate right to take peaceful civil disobedience actions to protest and make their demands heard.”

Saghatelian, whose party is a key driving force behind the protests, urged Armenian security forces not to “execute Nikol Pashinian’s illegal orders and use force against the people.”

“Nikol, you will have to go in any case. Leave without upheavals … Your departure is vital for our people and state,” he said.

Shortly afterwards, groups of opposition activists chanting “Nikol traitor!” and “Armenia without Nikol!” began blocking streets in various parts of Yerevan. Riot police intervened to unblock them and try to prevent further traffic disruptions.

They scuffled with protesters at some street intersections. Dozens of protesters were detained on the spot.

Armenia -- Opposition protesters scufle with riot police, Yerevan, December 8, 2020.
Armenia -- Opposition protesters scufle with riot police, Yerevan, December 8, 2020.

A small group of opposition activists picketed the National Security Service headquarters in the Armenian capital to condemn what they call politically motivated criminal investigations targeting opposition figures.

Other protesters paralyzed the work of Yerevan’s metro system for more than an hour.

Similar protests were reported in Gyumri, Vanadzor and several other Armenian cities.

Alen Simonian, a deputy parliament speaker and leading member of Pashinian’s My Step bloc, denounced the protests as a coup attempt by the country’s former rulers keen to return to power.

Simonian also scoffed at opposition calls for the fresh elections to be held within a year. “Why one year later? Let’s hold the elections now,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Asked why the ruling political team is not calling such a vote, Simonian said: “Because there is no decision regarding it. I personally do not exclude it.”

President Armen Sarkissian, the Armenian Apostolic Church and a growing number of public figures have also called for the formation of an interim government and conduct of fresh elections. Sarkissian insisted late last week that Armenia is in a “deep crisis.”

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