Interim Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan has formally requested that President Armen Sarkissian call a snap election for the country’s unicameral National Assembly in a move which appears to be a further capitulation to street protests behind led by liberal newspaper oligarch Nikol Pashinyan. Pashinyan was due to meet with Karapetyan this morning to discuss how to take matters forward after former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan abruptly resigned after previously refusing to do so.
Pashinyan whose party only has 9 seats in the country’s 105 man assembly earlier received the backing of the main opposition party Prosperous Armenia Party which currently holds 40 seats in the Assembly.
While Karapetyan earlier called for a broad political dialogue which would include parties not currently represented in parliament including anti-liberal leftist and conservative parties, it appears that like his predecessor, Karapetyan has once again caved into the (real or perceived) pressure from Pashinyan and his protesters and has consequently given in to their demand for new elections.
In a statement which read like a concession of defeat, Karapetyan said the following:
“This is a deadlock situation. Pashinyan declares that the acting premier should be a candidate of the people, and he is the one. I asked the country’s president to seek advice of political forces and set new parliamentary polls. If Armenia’s citizens want to elect Pashinyan, he will become the prime minister”.
Throughout the protests which have lasted for over a week, the role of the military has not been entirely clear. Images that have circulated widely in pro-western media showed a group of uniformed soldiers rushing out of their barracks in central Yerevan and embracing protesters. Throughout social media, many are speculating that the army may be divided between supporting the ruling Republican party and Pashinyan’s comrades.
A split in the army could be a clear incentive for Azerbaijan’s military to breach the contact line in the tense Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Such a development could deeply de-stabilise the situation where Russia has continud to pursue a policy of neutrality between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A date for new elections has not yet been set.