Armenian opposition, gov't begin negotiations
In Armenia, after a protracted political crisis, the authorities and the opposition have launched a dialogue.
The first meeting in a long time between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the leader of the opposition party Bright Armenia Edmond Marukyan took place earlier today.
The issue of holding early parliamentary elections in the country was at the top of the agenda; as Marukyan said after the meeting, a consensus has not yet been achieved, but the dialogue will continue.
While the prime minister was trying to come to an agreement with one of the opposition figures, a criminal case was opened against another.
The leader of the Movement for the Salvation of the Motherland, Vazgen Manukyan, is accused of publicly calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order and the violent seizure of power in Armenia, referring to some of his recent statements made during a rally.
Vazgen Manukyan is now also a candidate for the post of prime minister from the united opposition parties demanding the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan and his government. He regards the criminal case as “political persecution.”
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Opposition-gov’t meeting details
Pashinyan said that he hopes to come to an agreement with the parliamentary opposition on the issue of holding early elections. In his opinion, it is elections which will help overcome the political crisis in the country after the end of the war in Karabakh.
The prime minister has repeatedly stated that he is not going to resign at the request of only opposition supporters, since he received the post following a vote of all residents of the country:
“Elections are a mechanism for resolving this issue, an opportunity for the people to express themselves. Not only our citizens who have time to participate in government or opposition rallies could express their opinion, but that’s all.”
The authorities are ready to hold early elections in 2021, if they can agree, first of all, with the parliamentary opposition.
After the meeting with Prime Minister Pashinyan, Edmon Marukyan said that at the moment no consensus had been reached. Negotiations on holding early elections will continue after the leader of another opposition party, Prosperous Armenia, meets with the prime minister.
“Because the processes cannot advance only taking into account the position of Bright Armenia. […] But there is an understanding of what we must say, look for ways to get out of the current situation in the country,” Marukyan said.
Criminal case against the leader of the opposition
At a rally on March 3, Vazgen Manukyan, a candidate for prime minister from the opposition Movement to Save the Motherland, was handed a summons to the Investigative Committee.
A criminal case was initiated against him in connection with public calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order and the violent seizure of power in Armenia, allegedly voiced during a rally on February 20.
At the time, the oppositionist allegedly presented a plan of action to change the government which included, among other things, “the seizure of power with lightning speed.”
Vazgen Manukyan stated that he would continue to fight in any capacity.
According to the press service of the Investigative Committee, “a preventive measure has been chosen in the form of a recognizance not to leave the place.”
The political crisis in Armenia is more like a political scandal, says Director of the Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan:
“So far, we can only assert that another type of elite has joined the Armenian opposition: along with the church, academy, state university and even the president of Armenia, the top of the army is now also demanding the resignation of Pashinyan. However, Pashinyan is not inclined to heed these calls.
“He responded to the statement of the military in a manner typical for an experienced rally speaker, having summoned his supporters in the central square of Yerevan. There he made a speech, from which it became clear that he was not going to leave. The people, however, were not enough to create the impression of mass support. […]
“At the same time, another opposition rally was taking place in a neighboring square with no less radical slogans about Pashinyan’s illegitimacy. However, there were about the same number of people at that meeting as well.
“According to the political scientist, this became an illustration of the fact that in less than three years the country has returned to the end of the era of the Republican Party’s rule, ousted from power by the 2018 revolution:
“Weak heterogeneous government that does not have social legitimacy, and a weak heterogeneous opposition united only negatively, that is, against the government.
“The two poles of the current split Armenian society are the core of support for Pashinyan and radical opposition-minded people. However, both of these groups are in the minority, as the past rallies have shown. Between the poles – apathy, disappointment, unwillingness to go to another revolution three years after the previous one, and even seeing its results.”