Pashinyan Continues Inexorable March to Top Office

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL and Armenpress) — The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA or with its acronym in Armenian HHK) indicated on Wednesday, May 2, that they will join the factions of opposition faction led by Gagik Tsarukyan and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in the parliament in their support for Member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan’s revolutionary bid to become prime minister, making it all but certain that Pashinyan will be elected to the post on May 8.

Pashinyan posted a video on Facebook on May 3, stating that he met with Vahram Baghdasaryan, the head of the HHK faction in parliament, who reaffirmed the faction’s stance on the election.

“I had a meeting with the RPA faction head Vahram Baghdasaryan, and during the meeting he reaffirmed that their faction will support the people’s candidate to be elected as prime minister. Yes, these statements were made before our meeting, but reaffirming that stance during a personal meeting I consider important,” Pashinyan said.

In the wake of the first round of elections in Parliament on May 1, at which time Pashinyan, who refers to himself as “the people’s candidate,” fell short of his needed votes to become prime minister, he urged his voters to increase their acts of civil disobedience, resulting in the closing of streets in and around the capital, including leading to and from the airport.

On May 3, Acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan chaired what he called the final session of Armenia’s outgoing government, telling its members to continue to “diligently” do their job until a new cabinet takes office.

“We are holding the last cabinet sitting in this composition, and I want to thank you all for cooperation and joint work,” he said. “It’s been a very interesting period. I suggest reporting to the public about what we have done in this period.”

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“I want to address a last assignment and request to all my colleagues: we must fulfill our responsibilities diligently before the formation of a new government. The government officials must perform their duties regardless of emotion, just or unjust criticism,” added Karapetyan.

The premier also noted: “We have not included fundamental issues such as socio-economic development, income tax reduction and health insurance [on the meeting’s agenda] so that the next government could decide whether to do that or not.”

Karapetyan has criticized Pashinyan during the standoff that forced former President Serzh Sarkisian to resign one week after becoming prime minister on April 17. On April 28, he challenged the 42-year-old protest leader to come up with a comprehensive policy program in trying to get lawmakers to elect him Armenia’s new premier.

“We need to elect a program, not a person,” said Karapetyan. “We need to elect a team.”

Pashinyan has so far shed little light on the likely composition of his cabinet. He has said only that he will avoid “staff purges” once in office.

In addition, Russian officials are expressing hope that Armenia’s relations with it will not change.

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, “We still hope that all processes in Armenia will remain within the constitutional and legal frames. We wish our Armenian friends a maximally quick settlement of the existing political situation. We also hope that in any case the allied, warm and constructive Russian-Armenian relations will remain a constant for both the foreign policy of our country and the foreign policy of Yerevan.”

Peskov implied that Moscow is prepared for any outcome of the upcoming election by the Armenian parliament of the country’s new prime minister.

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it is continuing to “closely follow” the dramatic developments in Armenia. In a statement, it expressed hope that the Armenian crisis will be resolved “as soon as possible” through a “constructive dialogue of the republic’s political forces.”

Both the ministry and the Kremlin thus remained careful not to publicly take sides in the three-week standoff that has led to the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, who has organized the massive anti-government protests across Armenia, is now expected to be chosen as prime minister on May 8.

Pashinyan has repeatedly stated that he will not pull Armenia out of Russian-led defense and trade blocs if he comes to power. He told visiting Russian parliamentarians on April 29 that Russian-Armenian ties will only deepen further as a result of regime change in Yerevan.

Pashinyan has previously harshly criticized Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Citing the HHK statement, Pashinyan urged supporters to stop blocking streets and staging other protests for now. He said he expects at least 35 parliament deputies to formally nominate him for prime minister on Thursday.

“If all goes well we will take some rest and prepare for the prime minister’s election,” he added nearly three weeks after launching his unexpectedly successful campaign for regime change in Armenia.

He informed that the signatures necessary for his nomination already exist, and at the moment the necessary formulations are being carried out in the staff. “We can consider my nomination as an established fact,” he said.

Pashinyan called on citizens to gather in Republic Square on May 8, at 11 a.m., and follow live the election process of the PM in the Parliament.

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