Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced that he will resign within a week in order to trigger parliamentary elections by early December. The declaration appears to put to rest – for now – the hotly contested debate over early elections.
"I can say now that elections will take place on December 9th, 10th, plus or minus a few days. And so, I have to resign by October 16,” Pashinyan told an interviewer from the television network France 24.
The question of the timing of elections has dominated Armenian politics in recent weeks.
On October 2, parliament approved a bill that would have made it difficult for Pashinyan to call snap elections. In response, he gathered thousands of people in front of the parliament building to protest.
According to Armenian law, snap elections can take place only when the current prime minister resigns and parliament fails twice to elect a new one. That triggers an automatic disbanding of parliament and new elections.
After first mooting that idea, Pashinyan appeared to walk it back, citing the will of the Armenian people. "I haven't decided yet. If it depended on me, I would have resigned,” he said on October 8. “However, there is a sharp reaction from the people against my resignation. We'll think about this scenario carefully.” He gave no indication of why he changed his mind again.
The early election scenario gained momentum earlier in the week when the Prosperous Armenia party, one of the other parties represented in parliament, agreed to them, as did 18 members of the formerly ruling Republican Party of Armenia. Another party in parliament, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, remains opposed.
The Republican leadership ultimately backed down, as well, if grudgingly. "Because we do not accept the justifications for holding elections in December, our faction doesn’t intend to nominate a candidate for prime minister,” the party said in a statement issued on October 9. “As regards snap elections, we have always stated that we are not against it, but the entire responsibility for them will be on the government’s shoulders.”
The deputy speaker of parliament, Eduard Sharmazanov, complained about the concession and his fellow Republicans who backed early elections: “I don’t want to give an assessment, it is not my place, but it is simply unclear for me when MPs are not honest and they do not say that 'yes, Nikol Pashinyan has pressured MPs for months, interfered with parliament's affairs, and his supporters' siege of the parliament was a vivid proof of that.'”
By all indications, all political forces other than Pashinyan and his allies are facing dim prospects in the elections.
“Neither the Republicans nor the ARF and likely not even Prosperous Armenia will succeed in the elections,” political scientist Levon Shirinyan told the news website lragir.am. “The Yerevan mayoral elections [which Pashinyan's allies won with 81 percent of the vote] showed that the people remember everything very well.
Ani Mejlumyan is a Yerevan-based reporter.