“I think it is obvious that Nikol Pashinian will be at the top of the list of candidates,” Lilit Makunts, the head of the pro-Pashinian My Step faction, said during a news briefing in parliament on Tuesday.
Pashinian announced last week that early parliamentary elections in Armenia will be held on June 20.
He had agreed on holding early elections and on their date with Gagik Tsarukian and Edmon Marukian, the leaders of the two parliamentary opposition factions, Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia, who believe that a snap vote is a way to overcome the current political crisis in the country triggered by an Armenian defeat in the 2020 war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In order to achieve the appointment of the early ballot on the indicated date Pashinian will need to resign at some point in late April and the parliament should twice within two weeks fail to field a new candidate to replace him.
Pashinian’s My Step enjoys a comfortable majority in the Armenian parliament, but it has sought a sort of arrangement with the parliamentary opposition to ensure that no one is nominated to replace Pashinian if he steps down to pave the way for general elections.
At least one political group in Armenia is seeking the formation of an interim government after Pashinian’s resignation and does not want early elections to be held immediately.
The Homeland Salvation Movement, a loose alliance of over a dozen political parties and groups, has been holding street protests since a Russian-brokered ceasefire was signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan on November 9 mostly on Baku’s terms to put an end to six weeks of deadly fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The movement, which holds Pashinian responsible for the Armenian defeat and accuses him of anything from incompetence to treason, wants its leader Vazgen Manukian to be voted by parliament into the prime minister’s office once Pashinian resigns before early parliamentary elections can be held within at least a year.
Even after the announcement of the early election date, the Homeland Salvation Movement has refused to discontinue its street protests or change its agenda. Hundreds of its supporters are still blockading a central Yerevan boulevard where the parliament building and several other government offices are located.
One of the most discussed topics in Armenia since the announcement of early elections has been whether the current set of election-related laws should be amended before the vote.
Bright Armenia’s Marukian has rejected the idea, fearing that a new electoral code adopted just weeks before the vote will cast doubt on the legitimacy of its outcome.
The Prosperous Armenia party also does not consider it advisable that a new electoral code be adopted now, but like Bright Armenia it has indicated its intention to participate in the elections in any case.
Asked whether the majority faction intends to seek a new electoral code for the June elections, My Step’s Makunts said: “We are inclined to make changes in the Electoral Code to make a transition to an all-proportional ballot system to be applied in the upcoming early elections. Discussions are underway at the moment. These discussions include different segments. Amendments to the Electoral Code imply quite significant changes, and a decision should also be made on whether the ballot should be an all-proportional one. Also, the changes must be realistic for the forthcoming elections.”
Asked whether the changes could concern only switching to an all-proportional ballot system, Makunts said: “I don’t exclude anything at this moment.”
Under the current Electoral Code political parties and blocs contest seats in the parliament based on a mixed system of representation, including party-list ballots and individual races deciding the ratings of candidates within their own parties and blocs. Critics argue that such individual races make elections less political and more dependent on financial resources of candidates, creating more risks of electoral fraud.