Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced that he will be resigning in the near future. This is a necessary requirement for dissolving parliament, which will allow the country to hold early elections. The announcement came after mass protests in capital Yerevan.
Hromadske explains what happened in Yerevan on October 2 and what this could mean for the future.
On the afternoon of October 2, Nikol Pashinyan announced that special parliamentary elections will take place in December this year. However, the parliament, which has been controlled by the Republican Party since before the revolution, passed a law essentially blocking early elections. Two more parties – the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Prosperous Armenia Party – have joined the Republicans.
Photo credit: EPA-EFE/HAYK BAGHDASARYAN
In a Facebook live video, Pashinyan called on Armenians to protest. A few hours later, tens of thousands of people had gathered outside of the National Assembly building in Yerevan. They blocked the streets and demanded the dissolution of parliament.
The prime minister went out to join the protests, stating that “those who support this scandalous law are counter-revolutionaries and are declaring war on the people.”
He went on to announce the firing of six ministers, representatives of the parties which supported the bill, and then went into negotiations with MPs where he came to a compromise.
“I have said that I will hand in my resignation in the near future, after which the parliament will be dissolved. Theoretically, the MPs could choose a new prime minister, but they know that this will be followed by a negative, violent reaction from the people. I have proposed signing a document, according to which they will not put forward their own candidates for the post of new prime minister after my resignation, and, in December, we will hold the snap elections,” Pashinyan announced.
What is needed for snap elections?
According to current Armenian law, the procedure is as follows. First, the prime minister hands in their resignation, then the MPs have to choose a new head of government. If they are unable to do this after two attempts, then the parliament has to be dissolved.
To prevent this from happening, deputies adopted a law according to which the parliament can delay official sessions, if the prime minister does not turn up. Therefore, in case of his resignation, the parliament may postpone its meetings indefinitely. This has caused an uproar.
Why is it important to elect a new parliament?
Following April’s Velvet Revolution in Armenia, there was a change of government, but the composition of the parliament did not change. Former president Serzh Sargsyan's party still holds the majority. Pashinyan’s party has only nine of the 105 seats. Early parliamentary elections were one of the main demands of the protesters at the time of the revolution. However, they were unable to hold elections straight after the revolution because the necessary reforms had not been carried out. According to the government, the current electoral legislation allows for a whole manner of fraud.
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After the revolution, the question of when the elections would take place was key. The government promised to hold them in fall 2018 or spring 2019, but they did not announce any specific plans.
Why are the MPs resisting?
In essence, early elections will spell the end for the Republican party, which has held power for many years. This became clear after the Council of Elders (city council) elections in Yerevan in September. Pashinyan’s bloc My Step received 81% of the votes. That’s when people in Armenia started to actively discuss the future elections. But the Republican party was actively opposed to the idea.
It was only a matter of time before Pashinyan resigned, as his government was only meant to be a transitional one, tasked with preparing the country for new elections. Pashinyan announced that he had reached a verbal agreement with his opponents from the Republican Party. If they keep their word, early elections in Armenia will be held in December. It’s most likely that Pashinyan’s party will win and the revolutionary leader will become prime minister again.
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However, the Republicans could backtrack on their promises. They did exactly this in May, when the MPs promised to support Pashinyan’s candidacy for prime minister, but did not. This triggered another round of protests, and Pashinyan was elected after the second attempt.
On October 11-12, Yerevan will host a big international event – the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie summit. Leaders of 83 countries will be in attendance, notably French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is also on the invite list. Members of the Republican Party could have incentive to manufacture trouble for the acting government, in an attempt to discredit it in front of the international community.
However, the Armenian people have already proven that they can unite behind common ideals. They feel confident in their ability to influence politics in their country.
/By Ostap Yarysh
/Translated by Sofia Fedeczko