Armenian PM retracts from his promise of snap elections
The ruling My Step faction of the Armenian National Assembly announced on 7 February. It will not pursue early parliamentary elections, retreating from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s stated commitment to holding snap elections in 2021.
“The prime minister’s proposal to hold snap parliamentary elections did not receive a positive response from the parliamentary opposition. There was no demand for the early elections among the general public, either,” reads the statement released by the ruling My Step coalition on Facebook.
Opposition parties criticised the announcement, declaring that their support for early elections following the resignation of the PM and his administration has been steadfast since the end of the war. Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Council of Armenia Chairman and coordinator of the Homeland Salvation Movement Ishkhan Saghatelyan expressed that there are three reasons behind the refusal to hold early elections. The first is that the PM recognises that he would not win re-election. The second is that members of his party, whom he claims received their positions by riding into government on his coattails, feel the danger of losing their parliamentary mandate. The third is that the PM perceives that the opposition movement has died down, writes Armenian weekly.
Although regular protests calling for Pashinyan are being held in Yerevan, they have remained limited in size in part because there is no clear alternative for a new prime minister. “If the people wanted snap elections, they would take to the streets,” said My Step member of parliament Hayk Konjoryan in an 8 February interview with RFE/RL. “In meetings with us, many people are asking us not to hold snap elections.”
Yet, not everyone agrees with such an assessment. “What metrics did they use to measure the public demand?” asked journalist Karine Ghazaryan on Facebook. “Facebook surveys are not a basis.” “Imagine you can’t visit parts of the country you claim to govern because the local population and local mayors won’t allow you, and yet you harbour the illusion you can be a country’s leader,” tweeted Artyom Tonoyan, a scholar at the University of Minnesota, in response to the My Step announcement. “The audacity of it all.”
Pashinyan promised an early election at some time in 2021, back in December 2020 after he has been badly weakened by the loss in the war, with his political standing apparently only diminishing since then. As Eurasianet reminds, “in one vivid episode”, the PM attempted to travel to southern Armenia to meet with residents of villages newly abutting Azerbaijani forces but was forced to turn back when angry residents – including local officials – blocked the way.
My Step’s announcement came shortly following the declaration by Robert Kocharyan, a former president and Pashinyan’s main political foe, that he intended to contest the upcoming elections. “Yes, we will run, we will fight, and we will win,” Kocharyan told journalists at the end of January.
Whether or not Kocharyan was a viable candidate, his reentry into politics may have accelerated the prospect of snap elections in a way that made the ruling party uncomfortable, said political analyst Aghasi Yenokyan, a frequent Pashinyan critic. “Kocharyan’s announcement could have prompted others in the opposition to get in line with elections, whether with him or separately, and the pre-election campaign would have been kickstarted,” he said in an interview with a news website Yerevan Today, writes Eurasianet.