What is Happening in Armenia?

What is Happening in Armenia?

Armenian Prime-Minister Pashinyan’s Resignation

Once again the events in Armenia are taking a dramatic turn. Tonight at 20.00 Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan annonced his resignation. Just a few months ago, the international media was broadcasting scenes of nationwide jubilation over the election of the protest leader Pashinyan as prime minister. No wonder that it is becoming more and more difficult for foreigners following the events in Armenia to understand what is happening there and why. “What the hell is going on?” seems a completely legitimate question to ask.

Text: Mikayel Zolyan

 

            In fact, Pashinyan’s resignation is a tactical step, a formality dictated by the legal complications stemming from the recently adopted Armenian constitution. If everything goes according to Pashinyan’s plan, he will be the acting prime minister, and will continue to lead the country at least until the early elections, which should be in December. And, when it comes to the election it is obvious to almost any observer in Armenia that the political force headed by Pashinyan is likely to win an overwhelming majority in the upcoming election. The reason why Pashinyan resigns is that under the current constitution, introduced by the ancien régime, there are provisions that impede the dissolution of the parliament. As a result, in order for the new parliamentary elections to take place, the following sequence of actions must take place. The prime minister resigns, after which the parliament will have the opportunity to elect a new prime minister twice. If no new candidate is elected as prime minister (the parliament has two attempts), it automatically means the dissolution of parliament and snap election.

            The election is needed for several reasons. First, holding free and fair election was one of the main demands of the “Revolution of Love and Solidarity”. For decades elections in Armenia were stained by falsification, vote buying, use of administrative resource and other violations. Besides, the current parliament does not reflect the political landscape of Armenia, which had been transformed completely by the revolution. Finally, the current situation, in which the executive government is led by one political force, and the majority in the parliament belongs to another one, is a source of perennial political crisis in a parliamentary republic, which Armenia is today. For all these reasons, not only Pashinyan and his party, but also the vast majority of Armenian voters demand to hold election as early as possible. This became obvious in the Yerevan mayoral election, which turned into a de facto referendum on holding an early election. More than 80 percent of the votes cast for “My Step” alliance, led by Pashinyan’s ally, Hayk Marutyan, were in fact also votes for early election.

            There is, obviously, certain risk in this course of action. Apocalyptic scenarios are discussed by many Armenians, from ordinary revolution supporters to experts. In the most commonly discussed  scenario, the parliament, which is still dominated by the Republicans, elects someone else as Prime-minister, e.g. former president Robert Kocharyan, or, possibly some technical figure, who would be influenced by Kocharyan or Republicans. Such a step, though technically legal, would be perceived as a coup d’etat by the majority of Armenians and would lead to major protests, potentially plunging the country into instability and chaos. So, it is highly unlikely that the Republicans in the parliament would take such a course of action, however, events in Armenia throughout this year have taught us that no scenario, no matter how fantastic it seems today, cannot be completely excluded.

            Moreover, some in Armenia are afraid, that in such a course of events the Republicans could find potential allies in the two other political parties currently represented in the parliament, including not just the former ruling party, the Republicans, but also Tsarukyan Alliance and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). The latter two, even though part of Pashinyan-led government, joined the Republicans in an attempt to postpone the election, as the parliament passed legal amendments, which would make the dissolution of the parliament more difficult. However, this step backfired. Pashinyan called his supporters on the street, and in a matter of hours dozens of thousands of Armenians filled the territory around the National Assembly in protest. Government ministers representing the Tsarukyan alliance and Dashnaktsutyun were fired, effectively meaning that the coalition was disbanded. The parliament parties got the message. Tsarukyan Alliance “made peace” with Pashinyan, confirming in a memorandum that they would not nominate alternative candidates in case of his resignation. Several Republican MPs broke ranks with their party, and made statements that they would not support the nomination of an alternative candidate for premiership. Finally, Republican Party declared that they would not nominate a candidate either.

            Even if Armenia manages to pass the time before the election without any unexpected apocalyptic developments, the coming months will be full of dramatic developments: prime-minister’s resignation, the adoption of a new electoral code, the election campaign, and finally the vote itself that most probably will take place in early December. Thus, in any case, the resignation of Pashinyan signifies the beginning of a new stage in Armenia’s political life, which could be just as dramatic as the previous months.