Armenia: Embattled prime minister announces snap elections

Nikol Pashinyan has been under pressure to quit since November, when he signed a Russia-brokered deal to end the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan speaking
Pashinyan has been under pressure to step down after signing a Russian-brokered peace deal in November which brought to a close six weeks of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh [File: Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure via Reuters]

Armenia will hold snap elections in June, the country’s embattled prime minister announced on Thursday, after months of anti-government protests sparked by his handling of last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan.

Nikol Pashinyan said in a statement posted on Facebook that the vote will take place on June 20, adding the decision to hold an early election followed talks with Armenia’s opposition parties and the president.

“Snap parliamentary elections are the best way out of the current internal political situation,” he said.

Pashinyan’s opponents have pushed for his resignation since he signed a Russian-brokered peace deal in November, which ended six weeks of conflict that claimed thousands of lives and saw swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh returned to Azerbaijan.

The mountainous region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, even by Armenia, but is populated and until recently was fully controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Pashinyan, who himself swept to power amid a wave of anti-government street protests that rocked Armenia in 2018, said he signed the deal to prevent greater human and territorial losses.

The protests against him had gone dormant for a spell in the depth of Armenia’s winter, but resumed again late last month.

Tensions spiked on February 25 when top military figures demanded Pashinyan’s resignation. The prime minister responded by firing the country’s highest military officer, who appealed his dismissal in court.

Armenia’s president, whose role is largely ceremonial, declined to approve the army chief’s dismissal, and the general’s lawyer said on Thursday he remained in his post.

Pashinyan accused top military officials at the time of attempting a coup and staged a mass rally in the capital, Yerevan, which attracted thousands of supporters.

A simultaneous opposition rally also drew thousands to the streets.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies