Supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan protest outside the parliament building in Yerevan, October 2, 2018

‘Counterrevolutionary’ Bill Sparks Protests In Armenia, Pashinyan Offers Resignation

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Responding to an appeal from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, thousands of people began gathering in Yerevan late on Tuesday, October 2, after the Armenian parliament hastily passed a bill that could seriously complicate his plans to force snap general elections.

Deputies representing not only Serzh Sargsyan’s Republican Party (HHK) but also the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun parties backed the bill despite Pashinyan’s warnings not to “again create a revolutionary situation in the country.”

“Those forces that participated in the drafting of that bill and were going to vote for it are exposing themselves as counterrevolutionary forces,” Pashinyan said after meeting with the HHK’s parliamentary leaders. “All those who will vote for or back this bill will declare a political war against the people.”

Pashinyan urged supporters to rally outside the parliament building when the parliament majority ignored the warning. They were quick to gather there and block the entrances to the National Assembly. The premier was due to address the crowd later in the evening.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman and a deputy parliament speaker, insisted that the bill is not aimed at preventing the conduct of snap parliamentary elections. He said it is only meant to protect lawmakers against outside “pressures.”

“The National Assembly is an independent body and its members are free to vote in accordance with their conscience,” Sharmazanov told reporters. He accused Pashinyan of interfering in the work of the legislature.

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Under the Armenian constitution, fresh elections can be held only if the prime minister resigns and the parliament fails to replace him or her within two weeks.

Some observers suggested earlier that in case of Pashinyan’s tactical resignation his supporters will blockade the parliament to prevent it from electing another premier during the two-week period. The controversial bill effectively extended that period indefinitely.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan pledged late on Tuesday to tender his resignation in an effort to force the conduct of snap parliamentary elections “in late November or early December.”

Rallying tens of thousands of supporters in Yerevan, he also announced the sacking of six government ministers representing the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun parties accused by him of hampering the polls.

Pashinyan organized the emergency rally immediately after lawmakers from the BHK and Dashnaktsutyun joined the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) in passing a bill that would make it harder for him to have the current Armenian parliament dissolved.

Pashinyan condemned the bill as a “conspiracy against the Armenian people” when he addressed the protesters blocking the entrances to the parliament building in central Yerevan. “We will have pre-term elections in late November or early December,” he declared before entering the building to negotiate with leaders of the parliamentary forces.

Under the Armenian constitution, snap elections can be called only if the prime minister resigns and the parliament fails to replace him or her by someone else within two weeks.

In his speech, he said that he will step down shortly after President Armen Sarkissian certifies the dismissal of the six ministers affiliated with the BHK and Dashnaktsutyun. “If it turns out that the people stand for pre-term elections then together with the people we will not allow the parliament to elect a new prime minister,” he said, adding that he will continue to perform his duties in the interim.

The premier again insisted that the current National Assembly “does not represent the Armenian people” and that he won a popular mandate to seek its dissolution in the September 23 municipal elections in Yerevan. His My Step bloc won over 80 percent of the vote.

Dashnaktsutyun said, meanwhile, that it itself is recalling its members, Agriculture Minister Artur Khachatrian and Economic Development Minister Artsvik Minasian, from Pashinyan’s cabinet.

There was no immediate reaction to the latest developments from the BHK, the second largest parliamentary force led by businessman Gagik Tsarukyan.

 

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