At the end of last year, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan invited parliamentary and interested extra-parliamentary parties to participate in consultations on holding early parliamentary elections in 2021.
In early February, the “My Step” ruling faction of the National Assembly of Armenia, after meeting with the Prime Minister, stated that the proposal to hold snap parliamentary elections had not received a positive response from the opposition, and that there was no demand for such elections among the general public either.
It is true that those who are demanding Pashinyan’s resignation were stating that the Prime Minister should resign first, after which opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan be elected prime minister by the parliament, and only a year later elections could be held. It was, however noticeable that a rift had opened between different opposition factions. The difference in views and approaches has become apparent in the midst of numerous public statements. Gagik Tsarukyan indicated that the Prosperous Armenia Party, led by him, would run in the elections separately, whenever they took place. Robert Kocharyan also announced that he was ready to run in the snap elections. During this period, the protest rallies and demonstrations organized by the “Homeland Salvation Movement” consisting of 17 opposition parties were receding.
By rejecting the idea of snap elections, the authorities pushed the opposition to reunite and once again attempt to topple the Prime Minister through street protests. The recent events in Yerevan proved that although the opposition does not have enough popular support to achieve its stated goals, it is able to destabilize the situation inside the country. The speeches in the squares were getting sharper by the day and there was talk of “lightning rebellion, actions of disobedience, and seizure of state buildings.” Such rhetoric does not promise anything positive and could lead to serious clashes between different factions and the symptoms are already visible. During the opposition demonstrations, there were clashes between the protesters and their opponents. The Prime Minister’s supporters are demanding that the authorities put the “velvet” aside and take drastic actions against the opposition.
Since the Armenian version of this op-ed appeared in our print edition, new developments have come to shake the nation, making the situation even more perilous. High-ranking officers of the Armed Forces joined calls for the resignation of the government and the Prime Minister. They were objecting to recent decisions made by Nikol Pashinyan, prompting the Prime Minister to sack the Army Chief of Staff Onik Gasparyan. President Armen Sarkissian refused to sign the Prime Minister’s decree, thus creating a constitutional crisis.
As Diaspora Armenians, these events concern us and raise questions about the ability to overcome the challenges which were created in light of the six-week war. The best way to diffuse the situation is to return to the agenda of the early elections. Recognizing this fact, the authorities must reconsider their recent decision, speed up the adoption of the new Electoral Code, and hold snap elections within a reasonable timeframe. By not doing so, the current situation could last for a long time, undermining the internal stability of Armenia, which is needed now more than ever.