Are PM-announced snap elections in Armenia in violation of constitution?
Snap elections in Armenia
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan recently announced that snap parliamentary elections will be held on June 20 this year, but many politicians and experts believe that by setting the election date, the prime minister ignored the requirements set out in the country’s constitution.
Many believe that the election date should be determined by the Central Election Commission, and not by the leaders of parliamentary parties and the prime minister; the holding of early elections should then be approved by presidential decree.
The reason for early elections is an attempt to overcome the political crisis that developed after Armenia’s defeat in the second Karabakh war in the fall of 2020.
Per the country’s constitution, in order to dissolve parliament and hold early elections, the acting prime minister must resign, and the National Assembly must twice fail to elect a new head of government. Two weeks after the resignation of the prime minister – not earlier than 30 days and not later than 45 days – new elections can be held.
Thus, Prime Minister Pashinyan should resign by the second half of April, said Taron Simonyan, a member of the Bright Armenia opposition faction.
Armenian political forces and local experts have reacted to the announcement of the date of the elections, and political observers have already provided some forecasts about the possible outcomes of the upcoming elections.
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The reaction of political forces
PM Pashinyan announced early elections after talks with leaders of opposition parties that currently hold seats in parliament.
The head of the Bright Armenia faction Gagik Tsarukyan posted on his Facebook page after a meeting with the prime minister that the people should decide in whom to entrust the power, and “the only legitimate way to do this is by holding early parliamentary elections”.
The proposal to hold early parliamentary elections on June 20 was also supported by Bright Armenia. Although earlier, the head of this political party, Edmon Marukyan, demanded the elections be held before June 1. Later, after an additional telephone conversation with the prime minister, he posted on his Facebook page: “Do not postpone them until the fall or until 2023”.
The Armenian National Congress, headed by the first President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, has already refused to participate in the elections under the current electoral code.
The opposition alliance Movement to Save the Motherland, which includes more than a dozen political parties, including the former ruling Republican Party, has not yet reacted to the PMs statement.
Previously, representatives of the movement demanded the current government resign before the holding of early parliamentary elections in order to avoid falsification of their results.
“What does it mean – elections will take place on June 20? This is a complete disregard for all state institutions”, said Naira Hayrumyan, a political observer of the Lragir.am.
Hayrumyan went on to say that the election day is determined by the CEC, not the parliamentary parties, which may not even get into the new parliament:
“Who are Pashinyan, Tsarukyan and Marukyan to determine the election day? Maybe they will also announce the results right away? Elections can only be called when the parliament has been dissolved following the resignation of the prime minister. This day should be determined by the CEC, not the prime minister.
This is a complete distortion of democracy. Not to mention that elections are not needed in this situation, the government needs to resign, the president should appoint an interim government and only after that the elections can be held”.
Gohar Meloyan, an expert on constitutional law, also commented on the prime minister’s statement on announcing the date of the elections. Meloyan said that, in the event of the dissolution of the National Assembly, early elections are approved by a presidential decree:
“The prime minister […] once again demonstrates criminal arrogance and announces a process that contravenes a number of legal regulations.
The parliamentary factions and the Central Election Commission are involved in this process. In fact, the president of Armenia sets the date for the elections. However, in practice, the prime minister is showing criminal arrogance by announcing the date of the elections himself”.
Political scientists’ forecasts
Director of the Center for Regional Studies Richard Kirakosyan shared his predictions about the opposition’s chances in the upcoming elections:
“The opposition is largely discredited due to its ties to the former corrupt cabinet of ministers and is extremely unpopular. This means that most of its representatives are unlikely to be able to gain enough votes to enter the new parliament”.
Political scientist Hrant Mikaelyan believes that even if the political party headed by the prime minister wins the elections again, this will in no way solve Pashinyan’s problems:
“If he wins, he can try to continue the policy he planned – to open the Amulsar mine [ecologists believe that it can harm the entire ecosystem of Armenia], allow the creating of the Turkish corridor running through Armenia, reduce the army and try to carry out a geopolitical reorientation of the country.
But since all the components of the crisis persist, it is unlikely that Pashinyan will ever be able to feel that his power is not threatened in any way. He brought Armenia to surrender and radically weakened it and this defeat will be associated with him”.
In addition, Mikaelyan believed that PM Pashinyan will not be able to restore the country’s economy because he will not be able to establish better relations with Russia:
“It will also not be possible to restore the controllability of the state, given that the power mechanism is perceived by the public as illegitimate. […] The crisis is unlikely to be resolved soon. The problems are of a systemic nature, and, so far, no existing political force is capable of resolving them”.