Chaos and protest. Political crisis in Armenia

In the Armenian government, almost everyone is firing at each other after Pashinyan’s words about the Iskander.

After the defeat in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, the political crisis continues in Armenia. Another escalation occurred last week over the words of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan regarding the Russian Iskander missile system.

The Armenian General Staff and the opposition called for Pashinyan’s resignation. On Thursday, rallies of supporters and opponents of the prime minister began. On March 1, the demonstrations were repeated, becoming a record number. From clashes they were restrained by a chain of police.

Pashinyan personally led the rally of his comrades-in-arms. Speaking to the people, he admitted his mistakes and allowed early parliamentary elections to be held along with a referendum on changing the constitution. Correspondent.net tells the details.

Constitutional reform and early elections

On March 1, two rallies took place in Yerevan at the same time: one in support of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and the second in support of his resignation.

They also ended almost synchronously – the opposition union Movement for the Salvation of the Motherland ended its strike at the building of the parliament of the republic at about the same moment when Pashinyan had already announced the end of the demonstration of his supporters on Republic Square.

The prime minister, together with his supporters, organized a march in the center of Yerevan, while the opposition remained in the tent city, set up outside the walls of the parliament.

Tens of thousands of people attended both rallies. Pashinyan’s rally turned out to be the largest since 2018, and the prime minister could safely say that the people are still on his side, just like three years ago, when he came to power in the wake of mass protests. However, the opposition also managed to accumulate a record number of protesters.

The prime minister’s speech began with a minute of silence on those killed in the fighting in Karabakh in September-November 2020 and on the victims on March 1, 2008, when ten people (including two law enforcement officers) were killed in clashes with the police in Yerevan.

Then Pashinyan apologized to the citizens of Armenia, the Karabakh Armenians and the diaspora. He admitted that his team made every possible mistake. He also apologized for the mistakes of all the country’s authorities since 1991.

However, after that, Pashinyan turned to attack his opponents. The General Staff of Armenia on February 25 demanded the resignation of the prime minister in response to the dismissal of the first deputy chief of the General Staff Tiran Khachatryan.

He was stripped of his post at the suggestion of Pashinyan after he criticized the words of the prime minister about the ineffectiveness of the Russian Iskander missile systems.

“Let be [бывший президент Армении Серж Срагсян] will ask the question: why did the Iskander missile not explode? Or why it exploded by ten percent, for example, “- said Pashinyan.

The General Staff said that Khachatryan was fired “for short-sighted and unreasonable reasons” on the basis of “personal and ambitious feelings” and that Pashinyan and his government were no longer able to make “adequate decisions.” The statement of the General Staff was signed by 40 high-ranking servicemen, including the head of the department, Onik Gasparyan.

Pashinyan called the General Staff’s statement an attempt at a coup d’etat. He proposed to Armenian President Armen Sarkisian to dismiss the Chief of the General Staff, but he has already refused to sign the corresponding decree several times.

Later, after a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Armenian prime minister said that he had been incorrectly reported on the use of Iskander during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. The RF Ministry of Defense says that these complexes were not used.

However, he did not refuse his words about the coup. He accused General Gasparyan of betrayal and doing the will of the previous Armenian authorities and again demanded that he leave his post.

“The fact that the chief of the General Staff appointed by me is following the orders of the rejected [Сержа Саргсяна], this is the greatest betrayal, this is a betrayal, “the prime minister said, noting that Sargsyan is trying to seize power through Gasparyan.

Pashinyan, who now has absolute power in Armenia, also unexpectedly announced a referendum on the transition to a semi-presidential form of government in October 2021. According to him, it will guarantee stability in the country and exclude “the formation of internal political crises.”

“Finally, we must admit that the 2015 constitution, which entered into force in 2018, revealed many shortcomings during this period. And today we see that this constitution, unfortunately, creates many crisis opportunities and risks,” he said.

The prime minister suggested holding early parliamentary elections, if the opposition factions agree.

“If the parliamentary forces accept our proposal, made at the end of December last year – early January, then we are ready for early parliamentary elections. I give you a second opportunity. Let’s go to the elections and see whose resignation the people are demanding,” Pashinyan said.

Rally in support of Pashinyan / EPA

He did not specify how to initiate the dissolution of parliament. According to the constitution, for early elections, the prime minister must resign, and the parliament must fail twice to vote on the candidacy of the new head of government.

Opposition representatives did not comment on the new proposals of the prime minister. “We must stand firmly here so that the president and the constitutional court do not decide on the dismissal of Onik Gasparyan,” said one of its main leaders, Vazgen Manukyan.

Pashinyan is a man “completely divorced from reality,” said Arman Abovyan, an MP from the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party. “I don’t know how to comment on the words of an inadequate person. What October? He (the prime minister – ed.) Has already left,” the parliamentarian is sure.

According to Abovyan, his party, like Enlightened Armenia, the two largest opposition factions in parliament, will not agree to early elections on Pashinyan’s terms, as long as the latter insists on the resignation of the head of the General Staff.

The political leadership of Armenia seems to be shaken. In the government, almost everyone is firing at each other, writes the German edition Frankfurter Rundschau.

“The internal political front line is chaotic: Pashinyan against the General Staff, the President against the Prime Minister, the Security Council against the President and the General Staff. Pashinyan speaks of an attempt to carry out a putsch. While the opposition media report that a special group of the Turkish military entered the country in order to eliminate the most important generals of Armenia. The secret service denies this, “the newspaper notes.

Experts point out that the further course of the political crisis may be influenced by the mass scale of the rallies, noting at the same time a high degree of apathy in the Armenian society after the defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The plan proposed by Pashinyan can situationally calm the situation, but the root of the conflict will not disappear, said Armenian political scientist Alexander Iskandaryan. In his opinion, the initiative of the head of government is an attempt to unblock the current situation, which has formed after the statement of the General Staff.

Iskandaryan also recalls that at the end of last year, representatives of the ruling coalition already announced their readiness for early elections, but then they refused this proposal.

Experts also note that the opposition in Armenia is weak and does not inspire the country’s population. Former presidents, including the ousted Sargsyan, and other ministers are too well known and, apparently, do not inspire confidence, and there are no new faces.

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