Nikol Pashinyan

Armenian Parliamentary Elections Scheduled for May 1, Armenian Talks with Russia Intensify

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YEREVAN (Guardian, Washington Post, RFE/RL) – The Armenian parliament decided to hold a special session on May 1 to elect a new leader, as part of a three-step plan by the opposition for a transition of power, including electing a “people’s prime minister” and then holding parliamentary elections. Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan appears to be the favorite to be elected prime minister but wheeling and dealing is still taking place in the parliament.

Pashinyan declared he would accept the office of prime minister if it was “without restrictions” on his reform and electoral plans. He said to the Guardian newspaper, “Some forces are trying to engage us into political bargaining and propose me to become prime minister but ensure and guarantee the continuation of the existing system. And for me, my goal isn’t to become prime minister. My goal is to bring real changes to Armenia.”

At present, Karen Karapetyan remains acting prime minister, and the Republican Party holds the majority of seats in the 105-man parliament despite the departure of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation from the governing coalition on April 25. Pashinyan would need 53 votes to become prime minister, meaning he would at least six Republican deputies along with all the opposition representatives.

Consequently, he met with Gagik Tsarukyan, leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party on April 26, which the previous day told its members to join Pashinyan’s protest movement, but has not formally announced its position on the upcoming vote.

Meanwhile, Russia, the dominant great power in the region, has begun to be more directly involved. However, it has been more measured than in the case of the previous “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, which it strongly opposed. Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed in a phone call on April 26 to Karapetyan that next week’s election must be carried out in a legal manner.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, held talks in Moscow on April 26 with his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandian, Russia’s foreign ministry said. Armenia’s acting vice-premier, Armen Gevorkyan, also met Russian presidential administration officials to discuss the situation. Pashinyan said on April 25 to huge crowds of demonstrators that he had received assurances at the Russian Embassy that Moscow would not “intervene in Armenia’s internal affairs.”

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Pashinyan has “sought to reassure all parties, including Russia, that there should be no dramatic shift or U-turn in foreign policy,” said Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan, an independent think tank, in the Washington Post.

Armenian-American businessman and philanthropist Noubar Afeyan, visiting Yerevan, declared to the Washington Post, “If we assume we’re in the final act of the play, we may be surprised.” Referring to Russia, the chief executive of life science firm Flagship Pioneering continued, “If we are actually in the first act of the play, then we should look forward to the main characters showing up at some point.”

 

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