YEREVAN — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced his readiness to hold snap elections on the evening of March 1.
Addressing a large crowd in the capital’s Republic Square at an event commemorating the March 1, 2008, shooting of 10 demonstrators by the army, Pashinyan discussed allegations by opposition groups that his previous suggestion for fresh elections were insincere.
“Since the opposition flatly rejected our proposals for snap elections, we concluded that holding one would be pointless without their approval,” Pashinyan said, adding that if parliamentary quorum could be assured, his party was ready to call a vote. The prime minister also reiterated that the only way to change the composition of the current government is through legal, free and fair elections. “You elected me, and only you can oust me,” Pashinyan shouted, as supporters chanted “Nikol, prime minister.”
Armenia’s current electoral code features a complex mechanism for dissolving the government. In order to trigger fresh elections, the prime minister would first need to submit his resignation in accordance with Article 149 of the Constitution at which point Parliament is given two attempts to nominate a replacement candidate before being dissolved and elections triggered. These elections must take place within a period of 30 to 45 days later. Any citizen of Armenia — not just sitting parliamentarians — is eligible for nomination provided that they are over 25 years of age, speak Armenian and reside in the country.
Given that only 67 parliamentary votes are required to confirm a replacement prime minister, the government has been seeking guarantees from the opposition that it would not nominate competing candidates in order to go to elections. On Monday, March 1, Edmon Marukyan, who heads the opposition Bright Armenia Faction, signaled his readiness to recuse himself from nomination and greenlight an election if the government agreed to reinstate General Onik Gasparyan.
Pashinyan promptly sacked Gasparyan after the latter called on the government to resign — an act which the government considers to be illegal. The prime minister called Gasparyan’s call a “coup attempt.”