Armenia's PM calls for early elections in June in bid to de-escalate crisis

Screenshot, Prime Minister addressing the crowd of gathered supporters.

Armenia's incumbent Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on March 18 snap parliamentary elections to be held on June 20 in an attempt to defuse an escalating political crisis.

Breaking the news via Facebook, the prime minister said the decision was agreed with the leader of Prosperous Armenia, the largest opposition party.

The president has faced increasing calls to resign since November when he signed a peace deal ending the six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which many Armenians say disproportionally favored Azerbaijan.

The Moscow-brokered deal conceded to Azerbaijan control over one-third of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave as well as seven districts surrounding it. While the area is located in Azerbaijani territory and is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, it had been under the control of ethnic Armenians since 1994.

The agreement also prescribes the presence of Russian peace-keeping forces in the demarcation lines for at least five years.

Many Armenians aren't very satisfied with such a deal, and mass anti-government demonstrations have been taking place in the streets of the capital Yerevan and smaller cities. In his defense, the embattled PM says the deal was the only way to stop hostilities and the adversary from making further advances into the enclave.

In late February, 40 high-ranking members of Armenia's military signed a letter calling for Pashinyan to step down. In response, the PM fired the deputy chief of the military's general staff, Colonel Onik Gasparyan, describing the letter as an “attempted coup”.

And on March 15, Ter-Petrosian, the first president of Armenia from 1991 to 1998, joined calls for the PM's resignation in an article published on news website. The former leader said Pashinyan should step down “in the interest of the nation,” while a nonpartisan deputy prime minister takes interim charge to oversee snap parliamentary elections.

Talks of early elections have been floated around since December. While Armenia's ruling party My Step Alliance initially dismissed the possibility, last week current president Armen Sarkissian and Pashinyan hinted at it.

According to early reports, Pashinyan intends to run in the newly-announced June elections. Previously, the opposition insisted that any early vote should only take place after Pashinyan had stepped down and the current parliament had been dissolved.

Earlier this month, at a rally in his support, Pashinyan said, “let's go to elections to see who the people are calling to resign. Only the people can decide who will stay in power.”

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