Artak Hambardzumyan interviewing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan

Pashinyan Says Early Elections ‘Cannot Be Held Based on My Will Alone’

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) – Armenia’s embattled prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who is facing mounting opposition calls for him to step down over last month’s cease-fire deal with Azerbaijan, says he alone cannot decide to call early parliamentary elections.

Pashinyan made the comments in an interview with RFE/RL on December 16 as several thousand demonstrators turned out for a march through the center of Yerevan during which the opposition called for a nationwide strike next week.

“The question is not whether or not the prime minister must resign. The question is who decides in Armenia who should be the prime minister. The people must decide with their vote,” Pashinyan said. “Snap elections cannot be held based on my will and decision alone. There has to be consensus.”

The prime minister did not elaborate.

Pashinyan, who swept to power amid nationwide protests in 2018, has come under fire since agreeing to a Moscow-brokered deal with Azerbaijan that took effect on November 10, ending six weeks of fierce fighting in and around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

His opponents want him to quit over what they say was his disastrous handling of the conflict that handed Azerbaijan swaths of territory ethnic Armenians had controlled since the 1990s.

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Thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets of Yerevan and other Armenian cities since the truce took effect, while most opposition groups called for the establishment of a new, interim government until early elections can be held in the coming months.

Speaking at the scene of the opposition march in the capital on December 16, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, Ishkhan Sagatelyan, called for a nationwide strike beginning on December 22.

“We must begin a general strike,” Sagatelyan said, adding that the entire country “must be paralyzed’ to force Pashinyan to step down.

Pashinyan has said he has no plans to quit, insisting that he is responsible for ensuring national security and stabilizing the former Soviet republic.

However, representatives of his My Step bloc have indicated in recent days that they are “ready to discuss” the possibility of holding fresh parliamentary elections.

In the interview with RFE/RL, the prime minister also admitted that he bore responsibility for the outcome of the latest fighting, in which more than 5,600 people on both sides were killed — the worst clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh since the early 1990s.

“I consider myself to be the No. 1 person responsible [for the Armenian side’s defeat], but I do not consider myself to be the No. 1 guilty person,” Pashinyan said, dismissing critics’ claims he precipitated the war with a reckless policy on Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The situation had reached a point where war was inevitable,” he said.

Under the Moscow-brokered cease fire agreed last month, some parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by Armenians.

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