Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has expressed readiness to hold such elections in response to opposition demands for his resignation sparked by the Armenian side’s defeat in the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under Armenia’s existing constitution, snap polls must be called only if Pashinian resigns and the National Assembly twice fails to elect another prime minister. His bloc officially controls 83 seats in the 132-member parliament and should in theory be able to easily prevent the election of another premier nominated by the opposition minority.
Nevertheless, Pashinian demanded earlier this month that the two parliamentary opposition parties formally pledge to refrain from such nominations in the event of his tactical resignation.
Both parties, Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Bright Armenia (LHK), refused to do that. Their senior representatives say Pashinian fears that pro-government lawmakers would break ranks and vote to install another premier.
My Step deputies stoked the opposition speculation when they met on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of enacting a constitutional amendment that would allow the parliament’s pro-government majority to dissolve the National Assembly without Pashinian’s resignation.
“It was a very tentative discussion,” one of them, Hamazasp Danielian told reporters after the meeting. “Most members of our parliamentary faction were not present at the meeting … and it’s really too early to formulate any position.”
To pass, the would-be constitutional amendment must be backed by at least 88 parliamentarians. A senior My Step lawmaker, Vahagn Hovakimian, admitted that Pashinian’s political team cannot enact it without opposition support.
Hovakimian did not clearly explain the rationale for amending the constitution instead of activating the existing constitutional mechanism for the parliament’s dissolution. “This idea is designed not only for the current political situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers insisted that Pashinian does not trust his own parliamentary group.
“Why is Nikol Pashinian afraid of resigning?” said the BHK’s Naira Zohrabian. “Even if he resigns and the BHK or the LHK nominate a prime-ministerial candidate we won’t have enough votes without being backed by a large number of My Step deputies. This means that Pashinian does not trust even his own political team.”
“They are not sure their team would not elect, say, [LHK leader] Edmon Marukian as prime minister,” agreed the LHK’s Gevorg Gorgisian. “That is why they are choosing this option.”
Five deputies have defected from My Step since a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement stopped the war on November 10. One of them publicly demanded Pashinian’s resignation last week.
Virtually all Armenian opposition groups want the fresh elections to be held after Pashinian’s resignation. President Armen Sarkissian has also called on the prime minister to step down and hand over power to an interim government.