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Pro-Government Majority Blocks Parliament Debate On Political Crisis


Armenia - Opposition leader Vazgen Manukian addresses supporters blocking a street adjacent to the Armenian parliament building in Yerevan, February 26, 2021.

The leadership of Armenia’s parliament continued to block on Friday an emergency debate on the deepening political crisis in the country demanded by opposition lawmakers.

The parliamentary groups of the opposition Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Bright Armenia (LHK) parties collected enough signatures to force such a debate.

Under Armenian law, the session can go ahead after its agenda is approved by the parliament’s leadership. Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan and other senior lawmakers affiliated with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc twice declined to show up for leadership meetings on the opposition initiative.

BHK and LHK representatives accused them of being unwilling to address the political crisis aggravated by the Armenian military’s demands for the government’s resignation.

Pashinian rejected the demands as a coup attempt as he rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan on Thursday.

An alliance of more than a dozen opposition parties, including the BHK, staged rival demonstrations to voice support for the military.

Supporters of the Homeland Salvation Movement alliance blocked on Thursday a major street adjacent to the parliament compound and remained camped there on Friday. Riot police did not attempt to unblock Marshal Bagramian Avenue.

Leaders of the alliance said they will continue nonstop protests until Pashinian agrees to step down and hand over power to an interim government. One of them, Vazgen Manukian, urged Armenia’s police, National Security Service and other state bodies to “join the army and issue similar statements.”

Manukian addressed protesters before they again marched through the city center to reiterate the opposition demands.

The protesters also urged President Armen Sarkissian to reject Pashinian’s motion to fire Armenia’s top army general, Onik Gasparian.

Armenia - President Armen Sarkissian meets with leaders of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement, February 26, 2021.
Armenia - President Armen Sarkissian meets with leaders of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement, February 26, 2021.

Later in the day, Sarkissian held separate meetings with Mirzoyan and parliamentary leaders of My Step, the LHK and the BHK as well as other opposition figures. The presidential press office said they discussed ways of “easing the tensions and peacefully resolving the situation.” It gave no details.

As well as ruling out his resignation, Pashinian on Thursday offered to start “political consultations” with the opposition to end the crisis sparked by Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war with Azerbaijan. But he sent conflicting signals about his readiness to hold snap parliamentary elections.

A senior BHK lawmaker, Arman Abovian, said his party has received no negotiation offers from Pashinian and is skeptical about the success of such talks. Still, he did not exclude the possibility of discussing “technical” details of elections with the authorities.

For his part, LHK leader Edmon Marukian indicated that while his party, which is not part of the Homeland Salvation Movement, also wants Pashinian to step down, it would not boycott a snap vote organized by the current government.

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