Pashinian has toured villages in two Armenian regions and held rallies there after announcing on March 18 plans to hold the elections amid continuing opposition protests against his rule. The weekend trips were not announced beforehand and virtually no media outlets were able to cover them.
Pashinian mentioned the anticipated polls when he addressed villagers in Armavir province on Sunday. Speaking at one of those rallies, he urged supporters to vote against “wolves seeking to come to power” and give his administration a “mandate to strangle the wolves.”
“I hope and believe that you will solve that problem,” said Pashinian.
Opposition leaders condemned what they described as illegal campaign trips and gatherings facilitated by local government officials.
“Nikol Pashinian is now doing something against which he had for decades fought as a journalist and a parliament deputy,” said Naira Zohrabian, a senior member of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). “He is doing so in a much more ugly, immoral and open manner than the former authorities did.”
“Nikol Pashinian’s every trip to the regions is a total abuse of administrative resources,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. She claimed that public sector employees and other local residents are forced to attend his rallies.
Daniel Ioannisian of the Union of Informed Citizens, a Yerevan-based civic group, likewise charged that Pashinian’s trips constitute a “blatant abuse of administrative resources.”
“When you meet with voters, speak about elections, the future and your programs, and say at the same time that you have just decided to pave roads in their village that gives those who possess administrative resources a clear advantage over other parties,” said Ioannisian.
Pashinian’s office could not be immediately reached for comment on these accusations.