Departure or come-back? Experts discuss resignation of PM Pashinyan
Armenia is actively discussing the prime minister’s resignation and his consequent decision to continue to fulfill his duties. Nikol Pashinyan announced his resignation on April 25.
As per the country’s Constitution, his resignation is a necessary condition for holding early parliamentary elections which are scheduled for June 20. Now, for the parliament to dissolve itself, it is necessary that the legislature does not elect a new head of government twice.
Early elections will be held in order to finally resolve the political crisis in Armenia that began shortly after the end of the Karabakh war. Immediately after the defeat of Armenia, the opposition demanded the resignation of the prime minister, however, Nikol Pashinyan stated that he was elected by the will of Armenian citizens and would not leave at the request of the country’s opposition. Nevertheless, PM Pashynyan ended up agreeing to fulfil the demands of the opposition and hold early elections.
Nikol Pashinyan said that the “Civil Contract” party that he is leading will participate in the elections and he, himself, will run as a candidate for the prime minister’s position.
“If the people decide that I should leave the post of prime minister I will fulfill their wish. If the people decide that I should remain prime minister, then I will continue to carry out my duties”, Pashinyan promised.
In his address to citizens, Pashinyan noted that he would continue to act as head of the government during the pre-election period.
The country’s opposition bloc is not satisfied with the fact that PM Pashinyan will continue to fulfil his duties after his official resignation. They said that after his voluntary resignation, the prime minister could not continue to serve as head of government.
What does the Armenian opposition and ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosyan think about the decision of the Prime Minister?
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Reaction of the opposition
Leader of the opposition One Armenia party, lawyer Artur Kazinyan:
“Nikol Pashinyan has resigned, therefore, he has already ceased to be the Prime Minister of Armenia. In this situation, [Deputy Prime Minister] Tigran Avinyan must convene an extraordinary meeting of the government, state the impossibility of the prime minister to exercise his powers and assume the duties of the acting prime minister”.
Ghazinyan called on the National Security Service to end the state protection of Pashinyan, and on the head of the government’s affairs to take measures to free Pashinyan’ss cabinet and government residence, where he currently lives with his family.
MP from the Enlightened Armenia Party, Taron Simonyan, also thinks that Nikol Pashinyan cannot act as prime minister having resigned already:
“There is no clear instruction provided in the country’s law and, of course, one can interpret it as they like. But if you approach the issue professionally you can see that if a person resigns, he should not perform the same functions as before. This is the definition of resignation”.
Oppositional attorney Tigran Atanesyan:
“After the resignation of the prime minister, one of the deputy prime ministers should take over his duties. For example, when a minister resigns he no longer performs his duties and instead, they are performed by the deputy minister. “
Atanesyan added that the approach invented by the lawyers of the ruling My Step bloc is not legal and contains corpus delicti on the grounds of part 2 of Article 300 of the Armenian Criminal Code (usurpation of power):
“The provision of the constitution, according to which, in the event of the resignation of the prime minister, members of the government continue to fulfill their duties cannot apply to the prime minister who resigned voluntarily. For example, after his resignation [in April 2018, during the velvet revolution], Serzh Sargsyan did not become an interim prime minister but transferred his powers to Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan”.
The first president of Armenia, leader of the Armenian National Congress Party Levon Ter-Petrosyan called on parliamentary parties not to participate in illegitimate elections. He appealed to all the political forces of the country to take the arguments of the former Chief of Staff of the Constitutional Court Edgar Ghazaryan seriously.
On his Facebook page, Ghazaryan, outlined the reasons why the prime minister cannot act as head of government after his resignation:
“According to the Constitution of Armenia, the Prime Minister has no right to continue performing his duties after his resignation. Article 158 of the Constitution states that “the government submits its resignation letter to the President of the Republic on the day of the first session of the newly elected National Assembly […]. Members of the government continue to fulfill their duties until the formation of a new cabinet”.
However, Ghazaruan believes that the prime minister, despite being a member of the government, is endowed with a different constitutional status, so he has no right to remain acting.
Edgar Ghazaryan adds that all state entities will be responsible for holding elections that contradict the country’s constitution.
Moreover, Ghazaryan also noted that the previous elections, held on December 9, 2018, “on the wave of euphoria after the revolution” were unconstitutional and they cannot serve as a precedent for holding the forthcoming elections using the same scheme.
Similarly, Levon Ter-Petrosyan believes that all political forces, the President of Armenia, the judges of the Constitutional Court, and especially the MPs of the Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia parliamentary factions will be considered responsible for holding the upcoming unconstitutional elections.