A little more than three months after the signing of the agreement which ended the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is leading a political crisis in his country.
On the one hand, the military added to the voices calling for the resignation of the prime minister, in part because of his conduct during the conflict. In contrast, Pashinian himself claims to be the victim of a military-orchestrated coup attempt.
“The ineffective management of the current authorities and serious errors in foreign policy have put the country on the brink of collapse,” the military said in a statement Thursday.
The “serious errors” referred to by the military are said to be the management considered disastrous of the conflict which lasted six weeks with neighboring Azerbaijan. The center of the struggle was the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, a region internationally recognized as part of Azeri territory, but inhabited and controlled by ethnic Armenian groups.
According to investigations by Russia, which negotiated the peace agreement between the two countries, the war has claimed more than 5,000 lives, but the figures are still inaccurate.
Despite the prediction that the Armenians will continue to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh, the ceasefire was viewed by opponents of the Paschinese government as a defeat for the country and a national humiliation for allowing significant territorial gain for Azerbaijan, mainly thanks to symbolic cities like Shusha, conquered. during similar conflicts in the 1990s.
Considered by his opponents as a traitor, the Armenian Prime Minister says he is forced to accept the peace agreement to avoid further human and territorial losses. Pashinian says he takes responsibility for what happened, but now must move on and keep his country safe.
The Prime Minister was the target of a series of protests after the signing of the agreement. Thousands of people took to the streets of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, demanding Pashinian’s resignation, in a move that has breathed life into opponents and has now won the support of the military.
Two former presidents, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sarksyan, have issued statements calling on Armenians to support the military. It was not clear whether the armed forces were prepared to use force to back up Thursday’s statements.
The army also condemned the dismissals of General Onik Gasparian, chief of staff of the Armenian army, and his assistant, Tigran Khachatrian.
According to the command of the armed forces, the decision was based solely on the Prime Minister’s “personal feelings and ambitions”, is part of “attacks aimed at discrediting” the military institution and proves that Pachinian “is no longer in a position to take the necessary decisions ”.
The prime minister, in turn, has called on his supporters to take to the streets of Yerevan to express their support and condemn what he sees as an attempted takeover. Nearly 20,000 people responded to the request, according to the AFP news agency.
“The most important issue now is to keep the power in the hands of the people, because I consider what is happening to be a military coup,” Pashinian said, during a speech broadcast live on Facebook during the event. ‘a demonstration in front of the main government building.
Accompanied by his wife and children, the Armenian leader also said it was vital to avoid confrontation, despite growing tension. “The danger of the coup is manageable. We have no enemies in Armenia. We only have brothers and sisters.”
He later gave a fiery speech to the crowd who stopped to listen to him.
“As elected Prime Minister, I order all generals, officers and soldiers: do your job of protecting the country’s borders and territorial integrity,” he said. “The army cannot be involved in political processes. The army must obey the people and the political power elected by the people.”
In a statement, the Armenian Defense Ministry reiterated the government’s official position and stated that the military is not a political structure, so any attempt to involve it in politics is unacceptable.
Elsewhere in the capital, at least 10,000 Armenians have also met, but in protest against Pashinian. In some streets, demonstrators erected barricades using garbage cans.
During this act, Vazgen Manukyan, former prime minister and one of the main opposition leaders, accused the government of trying to turn the people against the armed forces.
The prosperous Armenian party, also opposed to the prime minister, called on Pashinian “not to lead the country into civil war and bloodshed”. “Pashinian has the last chance to go without a hitch,” the legend said in a statement.
By telephone, Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, told his Armenian counterpart that Moscow regards the political crisis as an internal affair for Armenia, but hopes that the differences will be resolved peacefully. President Vladimir Putin has asked, through his spokesperson, that the two parties act with moderation, according to the Interfax news agency.
Pashinian, a 45-year-old former journalist, became the leader of a wave of anti-government protests that swept through the streets of Armenia in 2018.
Initially spurred by the election of former President Sarskyan – the same one who now calls for Pashinian’s resignation – as prime minister, the protests quickly targeted the government’s political patronage.
At the time, the current Prime Minister, who was previously a member of Congress, cultivated his image as a politician close to the people wearing casual clothes and baseball caps, as opposed to the formal suits worn by members of the Republican Party. , who ran the campaign.
The protests culminated in Sarskyan’s resignation and, after a union of opposition parties around the Pashinian figure, he won a majority and secured his post as prime minister in May 2018.
With a reformist and anti-corruption speech, the Prime Minister obtained great popular support. He sacked members of the political elite and prosecuted former officials for embezzling public funds.
Because of her popularity, the coalition she was a part of won a comfortable victory in that year’s legislative elections, winning 88 of the 132 seats in the National Assembly.
Pashinian, however, has always been criticized by the military for being very gentle on certain issues. Shortly after taking office, for example, Armenians and Azeris clashed in the enclave of Nakhichevan. The clashes were short-lived, but the prime minister was criticized for not reacting more aggressively.