Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced his resignation on Sunday (25), just under two months before the next parliamentary elections, in an attempt to resolve the political crisis that plagued the country after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
With this decision, all members of his government also tendered their resignations, as required by Armenian law. Pashinian, however, is to remain in office as an interim until the outcome of the next election. He is considered by opponents as a traitor for agreeing to sign the ceasefire agreement that ended the conflict with Azerbaijan. Pashinian says he was forced to accept the peace deal to avoid further loss of life and territory.
The resignation comes a day after US President Joe Biden called the 1915 massacre of around 1.5 million Armenians by the former Ottoman Empire (which gave way to today’s Turkey) as genocide. Celebrating the American leader’s announcement with “great enthusiasm,” Pashinian said that “the ideologies that led to the Armenian genocide are still alive today,” citing “the atrocities” committed against the people of his country during the war. in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a post on his Facebook page, the prime minister said he decided to resign this Sunday, which celebrates Citizens’ Day in Armenia, as a symbolic act of giving back to Armenians the power they have been given to “decide the future of government with free, fair and competitive elections “.
Pashinian’s criticism gained momentum earlier this year, about three months after the ceasefire agreement was signed. On the one hand, the military joined in voices demanding the resignation of the prime minister, in part because of his conduct during the conflict. On the other hand, Pashinian himself declared himself the victim of an attempted coup d’état orchestrated by the military.
In February, the prime minister tried to exonerate General Onik Gasparian, Chief of Staff of the Armenian army, and his assistant, Tigran Khachatrian, but the dismissals were blocked by President Armen Sarkissian. After several protests on both sides, the government and the opposition agreed to hold early parliamentary elections on June 20. Pashinian’s Civil Contract Party cannot win more than 50% of the votes needed to form a new cabinet, but it can maintain a majority in parliament by forming a coalition with other parties.
That’s according to a Gallup Institute survey released last month, which found 31.7% of those polled said they intended to vote in the My Step alliance, of which Pashinian is a part. His main rival, ex-president Robert Kocharian, appears in second place, with only 5.9% of intentions.
The center of the conflict against Azerbaijan was the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, a region internationally recognized as part of Azeri territory, but inhabited and controlled by ethnic Armenian groups. According to surveys conducted 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 the country. Azerbaijan, mainly thanks to symbolic cities like Shusha, conquered. during similar conflicts in the 1990s.
Pashinian, a 45-year-old former journalist, emerged as 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 Serzh Sarksian As prime minister, protests have taken on the government’s political goal of patronage.
At the time, the current Prime Minister, who had previously served terms as 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 the people. members of the Republican Party, which ruled. the country. The protests culminated in Sarksian’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 parliamentary 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, the 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.