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Pashinian’s Resignation Still Nonnegotiable For Armenian Opposition


Armenia -- Edmon Marukian (L), the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia Party, talks to senior pro-government lawmakers on the parliament floor, Yerevan, January 18, 2021.

The two opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament continued to dismiss on Thursday Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s offers to hold fresh parliamentary elections, reiterating that he must resign and hand over power to an interim government.

“We haven’t changed our position that [Pashinian’s] resignation must happen without preconditions,” said Mikael Melkumian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). “The parliament must have a chance to elect a new prime minister who will stabilize the situation for some time, for up to one year … and we will hold the elections in that case.”

“Holding such elections in this situation one or two months later would be fraught with very serious dangers,” Melkumian told a news conference.

The BHK is a key member of an alliance of 17 opposition parties that staged late last year street protests in a bid to force Pashinian to resign. They blame him for Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Bright Armenia Party (LHK), the second parliamentary opposition force, is not part of the alliance called the Homeland Salvation Front. But the LHK too insists on Pashinian’s resignation, having nominated its leader Edmon Marukian as an interim prime minister.

Pashinian has rejected the opposition demands and offered to hold snap elections instead.

Armenia -- Mikael Melkumian, a senior member of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party, speaks at a news conference in Yerevan, January 21, 2021.
Armenia -- Mikael Melkumian, a senior member of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party, speaks at a news conference in Yerevan, January 21, 2021.

Under the Armenian constitution, such a vote can take place only if Pashinian resigns and the National Assembly twice fails to elect another prime minister. The ruling My Step bloc controls at least 82 seats in the 132-member parliament and should in theory be able to easily prevent the election of another premier.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian revealed on Wednesday, however, that My Step has offered the BHK and the LHK to sign a “memorandum” on snap polls that would commit the parliamentary opposition to not fielding prime-ministerial candidates in the event of Pashinian’s tactical resignation.

Marukian rejected the proposed deal. The LHK leader suggested that it was put forward because Pashinian and his entourage fear that pro-government lawmakers would break ranks and vote to elect him prime minister.

“If they are not sure about [the loyalty of] their 82 deputies and think that I may get elected if I run, then it’s a different subject for discussion and let’s discuss it,” Marukian told reporters.

Five lawmakers have defected from the parliament’s pro-government majority since a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement stopped the war on November 10. One of them publicly demanded Pashinian’s resignation earlier this week.

Speaking in the parliament on Wednesday, Pashinian said vaguely that his political team “will formulate an appropriate position” if the opposition forces continue to reject its proposals to resolve the political crisis in the country. He did not elaborate.

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