Protests have erupted again in Armenia on 2 October after its Parliament, still dominated by former coalition member Republican Party (HHK), passed a bill which made it much harder for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to force pre-term general elections. It is likely that this bill was passed because of Pashinian’s earlier call for elections as early as in December, in order to get Parliament seats filled with lawmakers who are more representative of the votes of the Armenian people.
A fresh mandate
Ever since he became Prime Minister of Armenia, Pashinian has called for new general elections to get a fresh mandate from the people. He promised that these elections would take place by May 2019. Moreover, he claimed, they would provide Parliament with a selection of lawmakers accordant to the wish of the people, in contrast to the pre-revolution Parliament, in which former coalition party HHK still held a majority after elections that critics and observers believed to be flawed. This majority has made it harder for Pashinian and his team to carry through the reforms that they stand for. His calls became louder after his bloc’s major win in the Yerevan municipal council elections in late September, with over 80% of the votes.
‘Conspiracy against the Armenian people’
Pashinian has stated that he wants to make use of a procedure in Armenian law that permits pre-term elections: in case the Prime Minister resigns, and lawmakers fail to appoint a new Prime Minister within two weeks, general elections must be held. This led to current majority parties HHK, Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Dashnaktsutyun Party backing a bill that says a failure to reach quorum – because of MPs being blocked by street protesters say – would not constitute a failed attempt to elect a new PM. This measure would effectively strip the PM of his main force: the power of the street to influence the current parliament. The passing of this bill in Parliament has led to massive protests in Yerevan, called upon by Pashinian, who deemed the bill to be ‘counterrevolutionary’ and ‘a conspiracy against the Armenian people’. Speaking to his supporters in the protests, Pashinian vowed to fire six ministers who were members of the BHK and Dashnaktsuntyun parties, because he claimed that they stood in the way of new elections. When President Armen Sarkissian has certified these dismissals, Pashinian claims he will resign. This could happen as early as mid-October, in which case general elections could be held before the end of this year.
After his speech outside the Parliament building where a huge crowd had gathered, Pashinian went inside to meet with parliamentary leaders of the HHK, BHK and Dashnaktsutyun. These parties claimed that they had not supported the bill to intentionally thwart Pashinian’s plans for pre-term elections, but to keep Parliament decisions safe from ‘outside pressures’.
Pashinian later said that during this meeting, all of these representatives promised that their parties would not put forward candidates for the position of Prime Minister when Pashinian resigns. However, parliamentary leaders from the HHK and BHK view the issue differently. They claim that they have offered not to put any candidates forward if Pashinian agreed to the elections being held in May. The Prime Minister reportedly did not accept their offer, and maintained that elections should be held at the end of the year. In reply, the HHK and BHK have both stated that they oppose elections being held in December and that no agreement has been reached regarding the process of electing a new Prime Minister.
The odds are quite in favour of general elections being held in the near future, even though the HHK and the BHK are now vocal in their disapproval of December elections. However, the pressure on these parties from Pashinian and the public which largely support him, grows, increasing the possibility of general elections before the end of the year. It is very likely that these will bring Pashinian the parliament majority, and thus the mandate from the Armenian people, he needs to carry out his alliance’s plans for the country. So until these elections are a reality, Pashinian seems set to do everything in his power to bring them about.