Armenian PM Pashinyan faces fresh calls to quit days before his talks with Russian president
A sit-in strike in Yerevan Freedom square continues
On the eve of the visit of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Moscow, scheduled for April 19, the internal political situation in the country escalated again. On April 17, the leader of the opposition parliamentary faction “I have the honor” Artur Vanetsyan began a sit-in strike in the “Freedom” square in Yerevan. Another opposition force of the National Assembly, the “Armenia” faction did not join this initiative, but announced that it had developed “its own program” to overthrow the current authorities.
At the same time, in the same square where Vanetsyan’s action is taking place, two young people who took part in the 2020 Karabakh war went on an indefinite hunger strike. They say that their goal is to protect Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, and for this they intend to “wake up the youth from a deep sleep”.
Why the internal political situation in Armenia has escalated, what is the opposition planning and what experts think.
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Vanetsyan “is not going to go home”
Artur Vanetsyan, the leader of the “I Have the Honor” opposition faction and the leader of the “Motherland” party, announced that he was starting a sit-in during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. He stated that he “is not going to go home” because “a critical moment has come” when neither articles, nor posts on social media or speeches achieve anything.
The oppositionist stressed that he is starting the fight as a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, and not as a leader of a political force, and called on everyone who is not indifferent to the country’s future to join. The former head of the National Security Service also announced that the Pashinyan government is going to “abandon Artsakh”, and its goal is to disrupt the prime minister’s intentions:
“The government of Nikol Pashinyan has already begun to say and propagandize that Artsakh can be part of Azerbaijan. If now there is no protest within Armenia, if we do not try to overthrow the Pashinyan government, then this process will definitely take place”.
It is not yet clear how the current government will be removed. According to Artur Vanetsyan, the action plan will be formed together with the people on the Freedom Square:
“The opposition is always accused of inaction. Actions will be decided here, they will be carried out here, it depends on each person when and in what way we will go”.
So far, members of his family and members of the same party have joined Artur Vanetsyan. It is noteworthy that he began his action after a trip to Moscow, although he himself denies the connection between these events.
Opposition intensified two weeks ago
The parliamentary opposition began active operations on April 5. On the eve of the meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Russia, both opposition factions organized a rally in support of Nagorno-Karabakh. They announced that the current authorities were pursuing a “defective policy of surrendering territories and begging for peace”, and instead proposed strengthening the country’s defense capability.
On April 12, both opposition factions boycotted the parliamentary sessions of the National Assembly and went to NK. Russian peacekeepers did not let them into the territory of the unrecognized republic – “in order to avoid possible provocations”.
On the eve of Pashinyan’s visit to Moscow, the leader of the opposition “I Have the Honor” faction has already begun a sit-in strike.
The impetus for this action and a new wave of tension in society as a whole was the speech of the Armenian Prime Minister from the podium of the Parliament on April 13. Nikol Pashinyan stated that the international community expects Armenia to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and “lower the bar on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh”.
This statement was criticized not only by the opposition, but also by most of the expert community. People again started talking about “a betrayal of the interests of Armenia” and “the Prime Minister’s conspiracy with Azerbaijan and Turkey to surrender territories”.
Hayastan faction has its own program
Another opposition force in the parliament did not join the “I Have the Honor” initiative, explaining this by the fact that they have their own plans. According to the representative of the Hayastan faction (Armenia), the vice-speaker of the parliament, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, they decided to wage a decentralized struggle:
“We have a plan of action from start to finish, we will make an announcement in the near future and begin to act. The Armenian people must fight for Armenia and Artsakh, and I assure you that this government will be short-lived”.
Gegham Manukyan, member of the same faction, stated that “active steps are already being taken, all possible tools will be used” to fight the authorities.
Hunger strikers did not join the opposition
Nver Kirakosyan and Artur Avagyan have declared an indefinite hunger strike. They announced their decision in a Facebook post:
“The goal of the hunger strike is to draw the attention of representatives of our generation to the situation around Artsakh, to direct them to the implementation of practical steps”.
On April 18, Artur Vanetsyan published a photo with young people who started a hunger strike and stated that he understood their “pain and anger”, but he called on them to stop their action.
Vanetsyan and members of the Motherland party perceived the young people’s hunger strike as joining their movement, but Nver and Artur emphasize that they do not intend to join the party struggle.
They state that their decision was made after the statement of the deputies of the NK Parliament. It contained an appeal to “brothers and sisters” in Armenia and representatives of the foreign Armenian diaspora to support the struggle of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh for self-determination and not to allow “lowering the bar on the status of NK”.
The young people who went on a hunger strike called their decision to go on a hunger strike “not an action, but a reaction”. They expect other young people to join them and give “an adequate reaction to the situation”
Political scientist Movses Harutyunyan believes that due to the difficult geopolitical situation in the world, the regional challenges facing Armenia have also aggravated:
“The Armenian opposition is signaling the beginning of internal political destabilization, thereby actually trying to prevent the Armenian authorities from concentrating on resolving issues of foreign policy and security”.
The political scientist says that all this happens when the country is finally trying to recover economically after the war. And, in his opinion, the actions of the opposition should not be taken lightly:
“After many unsuccessful attempts, the opposition turns to all-in actions, during which it will try to play on thin human strings, manipulating the extremely sensitive issue of Artsakh and sparing no means along the way”.