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Civic Groups Deplore Pashinian’s Reluctance To Hold Snap Elections


Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (C) talks to deputies from hs My Step bloc during a parliament session, Yerevan, September 16, 2020.

Civic groups and activists strongly criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s administration on Tuesday for deciding not to hold fresh parliamentary elections to end the continuing political crisis in Armenia.

In a joint statement, ten Western-funded non-governmental organizations insisted that such elections are “the only way to overcome the current crisis of trust” in the Armenian government.

They charged that Pashinian and his team “place partisan interests above public ones” and are therefore no different from the country’s former leadership toppled in the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018.

“A considerable part of the public has no confidence in the current authorities’ ability to not only cope with external and internal challenges brought about by the war [in Nagorno-Karabakh] but also guarantee Armenia’s peaceful development,” said the NGOs that had strongly supported the Pashinian-led revolution.

Pashinian expressed readiness in late December to hold snap elections in the coming months following opposition protests sparked by Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war. Opposition forces have since continued to demand that the prime minister hand over power to a new and interim government that would hold the elections within a year.

In a weekend statement, Pashinian and his My Step bloc said they see no need for snap polls now because of the opposition’s stance and what they described as a lack of popular “demand.”

A leading member of the bloc, Alen Simonian, defended the apparent U-turn and blamed the opposition for it on Tuesday.

“My Step could not hold elections arbitrarily. When the opposition demands elections we will discuss that,” Simonian told reporters.

The NGO statement dismissed that explanation. “The claim that there is no broad-based public support for pre-term elections is as manipulative as the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition’s claim that elections organized by the current government will definitely be rigged,” it said.

Nina Karapetiants, a civil rights activist, likewise said that Pashinian and his allies are using the opposition stance as an excuse not to dissolve the current parliament controlled by them.

“They just realized that they would not get the votes that they got [in the last elections] … I’m sure that the current authorities would not get even a quarter of those votes,” Karapetiants told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Pashinian’s bloc garnered over 70 percent of the vote in the elections held in December 2018.

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