Armenian parliament and PM butt heads, thousands of protestors come out in response
Thousands of people have again taken to the streets in Armenia, where late last night the former ruling party passed a bill in parliament which hampers early parliamentary elections.
In response, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan has brought thousands of people out onto the streets of Yerevan.
Pashinyan insists that early parliamentary elections be held because the majority of the seats in the National Assembly are held by members of the former ruling party, a fact which does not reflect the political reality in the country.
After negotiations with MPs, Pashinyan came out to address demonstrators and announced that there will not be a counter-revolution.
Allegedly, the parliament and Pashinyan have come to an interim agreement. Moreover, Pashinyan has announced that he will soon resign, though this seems to be a power play.
JAMnews breaks down the events in detail:
The turn of events began at around 19:30 on Tuesday evening, 2 October.
The former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which has a majority in the parliament but which has been practically excluded from the government since spring of this year, called a special parliamentary session.
The party put forward the following bill: if the country’s PM changes, he or she will not have the right to dissolve parliament.
All members of the RPA voted for the bill, as did members of the Dashnaktsutyun and Tsarukyan faction. Only the Yelk [Arm. exit] bloc, a group organised by Nikol Pashinyan, abstained from voting.
Why was this bill passed?
The former ruling party is trying to preserve power.
Despite the Velvet Revolution of spring 2018 which saw Nikol Pashinyan come to power, the RPA still holds a majority in parliament and can put the brakes on the decisions of the new government. However, the party has lost most of its real power in the country in other spheres.
Pashinyan insists that early parliamentary elections be held. This is one of the main points of the government’s platform which was approved and presented after the change of power took place.
Why has the PM decided to move up parliamentary elections?
PM Pashinyan’s My Step bloc won an overwhelming 80 per cent of the vote in Yerevan’s elections for the Council of Elders on 23 September.
Almost half of the country’s population lives in the capital, and thus experts and the new authorities assessed the results as powerful support for the government.
Earlier, Pashinyan said that early parliamentary elections would take place within a year, before 20 May 2019. However, after seeing the support his party enjoys in the Council of Elders elections, he announced on 2 October that the elections to parliament would take place as early as December 2018.
Public firing of ministers and governors
PM Pashinyan called the bill passed by parliament ‘counter-revolutionary’.
“If the bill is not recalled … I will be forced to appeal to the people for help,” Pashinyan said.
Which he did.
2 October 2018, 23:30
The PM appealed to citizens on his Facebook page, and called on them to come out in support of the achievements of the Velvet Revolution.
Within an hour, thousands of people had responded to his call, and demonstrators blocked off the parliament building.
At the demonstration, Pashinyan signed an order dismissing all ministers and governors from the Dashnaktsutyun and Prosperous Armenia parties.
In spring 2018, these political forces supported the revolution and received positions in the cabinet of ministers, in addition to the posts of governors.
Now however, they supported the former ruling party in its attempt to retain a measure of power.
The Dashnaktsutyun party had already recalled its party members from ministerial positions, citing the tense political situation in the country.
Pashinyan to resign
After dismissing the ministers, Pashinyan stated that he himself will resign.
Once this happens, parliament will elect a new PM within seven days. If elections for the prime ministership fail twice, then the country’s law mandates that early parliamentary elections be held.
Pashinyan told demonstrators that if the people want early parliamentary elections, then he will make sure that a new PM will not be elected and will ensure that early parliamentary elections be held.
Negotiations with the MPs that passed the bill
After announcing his intention to resign, Pashinyan went to the National Assembly to hold negotiations. As in the days of the revolution, he called on the people to remain peaceful and not to demonstrate aggression or the use of force:
“I hope that we will reach an agreement. I will resign, nobody will put forward a candidate for the prime ministership. I hope that they will appropriately assess the situation,” Pashinyan said.
Negotiations between the PM and MPs came to an end, after which Pashinyan came out to his supporters in front of the National Assembly and stated that there would be no counter-revolution.
“There is a political crisis in the country which needs to be overcome. I offered the representatives of the Republican Party of Armenia, Tsarukyan and the Dashnaktsutyun the following option: that I would soon resign and that I expect them not to antagonise the people,” Pashinyan said.
He also added that the RPA, Tsarukyan and Dashnaktsutyun could, of course, put forward candidates for the prime ministership, but that they should take into consideration what kind of reaction this would elicit from the public:
“This would be irrational and it would bring about, lightly put, a very negative reaction. The right way to proceed is for me to sign a document according to which I will resign and then for the voting process to fail twice. As a result, we will have early parliamentary elections in December. MPs said that they had heard and understood the message of the people and respect it. They verbally assured me that they do not intend to put forward a candidate for the prime ministership.”
The reaction on social media
Social media users are also discussing the situation. Here are some typical comments:
“He [PM Pashinan] called out, and within an hour a sea of people had filled the streets. How many times must the people rise up for them [the former ruling party] to finally understand: they cannot stay, they cannot hide behind the doors of their offices in parliament… They don’t want to see you; leave, free us from your presence, let us live normally, get your claws off us!”
“The former party does not understand, doesn’t want to believe, can’t comprehend, that the people whom they hated so much, the people that overthrew them, can decide things! How much must a person or a political force hate his own people in order to fall into such a condition of self-delusion. How arrogant do you have to be to consider yourself worthy of representing the interests of the people. We suffered under them for so many years. Never again!”