In a televised address to the nation, Garegin said Pashinian lacks popular trust after the “disastrous” war in Nagorno-Karabakh and should step down to prevent violent unrest and end what he called a “deep political crisis” in Armenia. He said he made this clear at a face-to-face meeting with the embattled premier.
Garegin also called on the Armenian parliament dominated by Pashinian’s allies to “elect a new prime minister and form an interim government of national unity.”
“Only a government trusted by the public and made up of professionals can settle issues facing our people, restore national unity and solidarity, and organize pre-term parliamentary elections representing an undisputed necessity,” he said.
Garegin implied that his view is shared by other top clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The number two figure in the church hierarchy, the Lebanon-based Catholicos Aram I, aired a similar appeal to Pashinian earlier on Tuesday.
The ancient church, to which the vast majority of Armenians nominally belong, has never called for the resignation of Armenia’s post-Soviet leaders before.
Garegin’s and Aram’s appeals came amid continuing opposition protests in Yerevan sparked by a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10. The Armenian opposition blames Pashinian for Azerbaijan’s victory in the six-week and wants him to resign. The prime minister has rejected the opposition demands.
Garegin stressed that both the authorities and the opposition should avoid “statements and actions inciting violence and disseminating hatred.”
Pashinian has had a frosty rapport with the Armenian pontiff ever since he swept to power in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” In particular, he was angered by Garegin’s April 2020 call for former President Robert Kocharian’s release from prison.
Pashinian responded by accusing the church of frequently hatching “political intrigues” instead of engaging in “activity stemming from the Bible and its ideology.” Garegin’s Echmiadzin-based office rebutted the scathing attack.
In what may have been a related development, Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan, the head of the church’s largest diocese encompassing Yerevan and southern Ararat province, was charged in April with fraud and money laundering. Kchoyan denies the charges.