YEREVAN — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on March 1 that he is prepared to hold snap parliamentary elections provided the opposition agrees to certain conditions.
“If the parliamentary opposition agrees to early elections, we will agree to early elections,” Pashinyan told tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.
He also proposed holding a referendum in October on adopting a new constitution that would expand presidential powers to avoid future crises.
“We are often accused that we made the proposal to hold elections in order not to hold elections, i. e. it was a formal offer,” Pashinyan said.
He said the offer is still in force, and early elections will be held if parliamentary forces agree. “We are confident that people are able to establish legitimate power in the country through free expression of will,” he stated.
“They [the opposition] had all chances to demonstrate in the squares that people demand my resignation, but they failed to. I’m giving a second chance, I’m making this challenge. Let’s go and see whose resignation people demand, to see what people demand,” the Prime Minister said.
Pashinyan said they had even thought about slogans for the campaign, and one of them would be “End to Velvet.”
“You have raised me to the ranks of Prime Minister, and you, only you are eligible to remove me from the post,” the Prime Minister said, addressing the public.
“We will not be seeking our victory in those elections, we will be seeking your victory, because you have to win. Only one force – the people -should be the winner in the Republic of Armenia,” he stated.
Pashinyan also stressed the need for new Constitution or constitutional amendments. “Today we see that this Constitution, unfortunately, creates many crisis opportunities and risks. We must work to pass a new Constitution or constitutional amendments in a referendum in October this year, and finally, the transition to a semi-presidential system of government should be one of the possible options, the Prime Minister said.
“We must carry out this process in close cooperation with the National Assembly, the Government, the President of the Republic, the political forces and the civil society,” he added.
“Our biggest task should be the creation and formation of such constitutional structures that will guarantee stability and security in the Republic of Armenia; will exclude the formation of such crises,” PM Pashinyan stated.
Pashinyan once again rejected demands by high ranking army officers for his resignation calling it a coup attempt and said Colonel-General Onik Gasparyan, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, must himself step down.
He charged that the February 25 statement by the army’s top brass was initiated by Gasparyan at the behest of former President Serzh Sarkisian. He accused Sarkisian and other opposition leaders of using the military in a bid to end “the people’s power.”
Pashinyan moved to dismiss Gasparyan immediately after the statement that accused the current government of having put Armenia “on the brink of collapse” after the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Armen Sarkissian refused, however, to sign at the weekend a decree relieving the country’s top general of his duties. Despite the rebuff, Pashinyan resent the draft decree to Sarkissian for approval.
The prime minister urged Sarkissian to stop blocking Gasparyan’s dismissal. He confirmed that he met with the president earlier in the day but gave no details of their conversation.