Pashinian announced that he has requested a presidential decree relieving Colonel-General Onik Gasparian of his duties shortly after the Armenian military’s top brass accused the government of misrule and demanded its resignation.
Pashinian said Sarkissian must sign such a decree as he addressed thousands of supporters who rallied in Yerevan. “If the president of the republic does not sign that motion does it mean he is joining the coup d’etat?” he asked.
“In the existing situation nobody must try to draw the president into political processes in any way,” Sarkissian’s office said in a statement issued late in the evening. “Any attempt to put pressure on the president is unacceptable.”
The office pointed out that the Armenian constitution gives the president three days to sign or reject decrees proposed by the prime minister.
“Based on the need to ensure the normal functioning of state bodies, the president has until now not objected to the appointment and dismissal of state officials [proposed by the prime minister.] But amid martial law and the existing crisis, the dismissal of the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces after the above-mentioned statement [by the military] would not be a regular personnel change,” it said, pointing to the army’s vital role in defending Armenia.
It remained unclear whether Sarkissian will agree to fire Gasparian. The presidential office said only that his top priority now is to help de-escalate and end the grave political crisis in Armenia. It stressed that he is not siding with any political faction.
Sarkissian was quick to formalize late on Wednesday the sacking of General Gasparian’s first deputy, Tiran Khachatrian, initiated by Pashinian. The military strongly condemned the sacking in its statement that demanded the government’s resignation.
Echoing Armenian opposition demands, Sarkissian urged Pashinian to resign and hand over power to an interim government following the Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped the war in Karabakh on November 10. Pashinian has refused to do that.