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Ruling Bloc Warns Armenian Opposition Over Snap Elections


Armenia -- A deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, Alen Simonian, speaks with journalists, January 30, 2020.

Armenia’s government could withdraw its proposal to hold fresh parliamentary elections if opposition forces continue to demand its resignation, a close associate of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian warned on Wednesday.

Pashinian again refused to step down and offered instead to hold such elections late last month he faced street protests sparked by the Armenian side’s defeat in the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Virtually all Armenian opposition groups hold Pashinian responsible for the outcome of the war and want him to hand over power to an interim government. They maintain that the snap polls must be held only after his resignation.

Echoing Pashinian’s statements, a senior member of the ruling My Step bloc, Alen Simonian, said that the fate of the current government must be decided by “the will of the people.”

“We must ask the people, rather than buy media outlets or breed some [social media] users to create the impression that one or another guy is bad,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Armenia -- Riot police clash with opposition protesters outside the main Armenian government building in Yerevan, December 24, 2020.
Armenia -- Riot police clash with opposition protesters outside the main Armenian government building in Yerevan, December 24, 2020.

Simonian stressed that the conduct of the vote proposed by Pashinian hinges on a broad-based political “consensus” in the country.

“I don’t rule out that in case of an [opposition] decision that there need to be elections our faction will find a legislative solution to that issue,” he said. “But I also don’t rule out that there will be no elections at all. If the opposition feels that it cannot participate why should we hold the elections?”

A senior lawmaker from Bright Armenia Party (LHK), one of the two opposition parties represented in the parliament, dismissed Simonian’s warning as “blackmail.”

“What they are now saying is, ‘We will stay on and ruin what remains of the country and the opposition will be responsible for that because it refuses to go for the elections with us,’” said Gevorg Gorgisian.

“The tensions and the crisis that we have now would not end as a result of elections organized by Nikol Pashinian,” he claimed.

Armenia -- Gevorg Gorgisian of the opposition Bright Armenia Party speaks during a parliament session in Yerevan.
Armenia -- Gevorg Gorgisian of the opposition Bright Armenia Party speaks during a parliament session in Yerevan.

The LHK is not part of a coalition more than a dozen opposition groups that held the anti-government protests in November and December. They include businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party, the second largest in the parliament.

Two leading members of coalition, called the Homeland Salvation Front, promised on Friday more efforts to oust Pashinian as they began touring Armenia’s regions in a bid to drum up greater support for their campaign.

Under the Armenian constitution, fresh elections will have to be called and held by the current government if Pashinian resigns and the National Assembly twice fails to elect another prime minister. The LHK has made clear that it would nominate its top leader, Edmon Marukian, for the post of prime minister in the event of Pashinian’s tactical resignation.

Simonian indicated that the LHK must pledge not to do that. Gorgisian scoffed at the demand, saying Pashinian’s political team fears that pro-government lawmakers would break ranks and vote for Marukian.

Marukian’s party controls only 17 seats in the 132-member parliament, compared with 83 seats held by Pashinian’s My Step.

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