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Armenian Opposition Set To Continue Street Protests Despite Announced Early Elections


Supporters of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement hold a rally in central Yerevan (archive photo)

A loose alliance of more than a dozen political parties and groups demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said it will continue its street protests despite the announcement of early parliamentary elections in June.

Ishkhan Saghatelian, a coordinator of the alliance called Homeland Salvation Movement, said on Friday that they had “sufficient reasons” to doubt that Pashinian genuinely intends to resign and hold elections on June 20.

Pashinian announced the date of the vote following talks with Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the largest opposition Prosperous Armenia faction in the Armenian parliament.

Edmon Marukian, the leader of the other opposition Bright Armenia faction, said later that day that he had a telephone conversation with Pashinian and confirmed that holding early elections on June 20 was acceptable to his party.

Even though the Pashinian-led alliance enjoys a comfortable majority in the Armenian parliament, the prime minister has sought a sort of agreement with the two opposition factions to ensure that they will not field their own candidates if he resigns and thus will pave the way for the parliament to be dissolved and new elections to be appointed. Members of Pashinian’s political team have said this is needed to exclude the risk of upheavals.

The Homeland Salvation Movement, of which Prosperous Armenia is a member, holds Pashinian responsible for the Armenian defeat in last fall’s six-week war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In recent months it has been holding anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan and other parts of the country in a bid to force Pashinian to hand over power to an interim government.

Since late February the opposition alliance has been blocking part of a central boulevard in Yerevan where the Armenian parliament and several other government offices are located.

Coordinator of the Homeland Salvation Movement Ishkhan Saghatelian
Coordinator of the Homeland Salvation Movement Ishkhan Saghatelian

Talking to media on Friday, Saghatelian said that the movement may introduce some “tactical changes” in its struggle, but will stick to its main agenda according to which Pashinian must resign and a provisional government be formed before preterm elections can be held in at least a year.

The Homeland Salvation Movement has named Vazgen Manukian, a 75-year-old opposition politician who led Armenia’s government in the early 1990s, as a candidate to replace Pashinian as prime minister. It says Manukian and his political party will not take part in the eventual early elections, which, according to the movement, will ensure his neutrality as the organizer of the vote.

Saghatelian said that Pashinian’s announcement of early elections was yet only a statement and that the opposition has no reason to trust it “based on the previous experience.”

At the same time, the coordinator of the opposition movement warned that if elections are held with the Pashinian government left in charge of organizing the electoral process, the vote may trigger a new crisis instead of settling the ongoing one.

“We find that snap parliamentary elections are a necessary condition for getting out of the current situation, but if Pashinian continues to act as prime minister during the election period, there is a great risk that the elections will not be competitive and that there will be no equal conditions [for participants]. And there is a great chance that such elections will be rigged. In that case, instead of becoming a way out of the current crisis, these elections may trigger a new crisis,” the coordinator of the Homeland Salvation Movement concluded.

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