Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan announces his resignation to allow for quick voting

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan resigned on Sunday while remaining as caretaker, setting the stage for a June 20 parliamentary election aimed at deterring a protracted political crisis.

Pashinyan has been facing calls since signing a peace deal with Azerbaijan in November that ended a war between the two arch-enemies for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“I am resigning from my post as Prime Minister today” to hold the quick vote on June 20, he said in a statement on his Facebook page.

“I return to the citizens of Armenia the power they gave me, so that they decide the fate of the government through free and fair elections,” he said.

After Pashinyan announced his resignation, all members of his cabinet submitted their own resignations under Armenian law.

Pashinyan said he would continue to fulfill his role as head of the interim government before the vote and that he would stand as a candidate for prime minister.

The move comes a day after Joe Biden became the first US president to recognize the Ottoman forces’ assassination of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide, in a landmark praised by Pashinyan and condemned by Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan.

Ex-Soviet Armenia has been involved in a political crisis in the wake of its humiliating defeat against Azerbaijan, which was backed by Turkey during the conflict.

The defeat sparked mass protests in the poor little Caucasus nation on the Turkish-Iranian border, which erupted in February after Pashinyan accused Armenia’s top military official of carrying out a coup.

To remove the crisis, Pashinyan last month announced the quick election, which was welcomed by prominent opposition leaders.

Attaches to power

The Battle of Nagorno-Karabakh broke out in September and saw Azerbaijan’s better-equipped army make steady gains against the Armenian military, which uses Soviet-era aging hardware.

The six-week fighting claimed about 6,000 lives and saw Armenia leave territories to Azerbaijan under the peace agreement signed by Pashinyan.

Pashinyan has insisted that he handled the war correctly and said he had no choice but to admit or see his country’s forces suffer even greater losses and that quick votes were the best way to end the post-war political stalemate.

Analysts say Pashinyan is likely to retain his grip on power after the June 20 election.

His civilian contracting party “may not get more than 50 percent of the votes needed to form a new cabinet, but would keep a parliamentary majority in coalition” with other parties, political analyst Stepan Grigoryan told AFP.

The 45-year-old former newspaper editor came to power who led peaceful protests in 2018 called the Velvet Revolution.

He launched an anti-graft crusade, initiated extensive economic reforms and edged corrupt oligarchs and monopolies.

Analysts credited the policy for accelerating economic growth, reducing poverty and creating tens of thousands of new jobs.

But then the coronavirus pandemic struck and stopped the economic revival in its wake – followed by the outbreak of strife in the decades-long dispute with Azerbaijan for control of Karabakh.

(AFP)

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