With No Consensus On Snap Parliamentary Polls, Armenia Sliding Into Yet Another Crisis

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 4 October 2018
With No Consensus On Snap Parliamentary Polls, Armenia Sliding Into Yet Another Crisis

Armenia has been drawn into yet another political crisis as a fresh wave of confrontation is in place between the prime minister and parliamentary factions. A bill by the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) - the parliamentary majority, blocking the legislative body from being dissolved and holding early elections was also backed by the current government’s allies of the Prosperous Party of Armenia (PPA) and the ultra-nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun (ARFD) and this triggered the current ongoing situation.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets upon Pashinyan’s call to block the Armenian National Assembly with around 70 parliamentarians inside. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged the people to block the parliament, strongly opposed the adoption of the legislative initiative and insisted that the snap elections should be held in December 2018.

The move of the parliamentary parties pushed the prime minister to also dismiss ministers representing the Tsarukyan Alliance (Prosperous Armenia) and the Dashnaktsutyun Party for their support of the motion, while Pashinyan's party the Yelk Alliance (Way-Out) ignored the vote.

"When the decision on the resignation of the ministers and governors enters into force de jure, I will resign… However, I will be the acting prime minister," Pashinyan said.

In the meantime, the prime minister’s insistence on the holding of the snap parliamentary elections triggered angry reactions by Armenia’s traditional parliamentary parties. Deputies from the Republican Party, Dashnaktsutyun and the Tsarukyan bloc claimed they back snap polls but they are unhappy about the timing in December.

Prime Minister Pashinyan sacked six ministers from PPA and ARFD, accusing them of "counter-revolutionary" activities together with members of the Republican Party. On October 3, however, the parliament was unable to start work due to the lack of a quorum. Apparently, it’s too early to talk about overcoming the political crisis in Armenia.

However, October 3 saw the application of a unique political technology in Armenia. As a result, the alignment of the future parliament was determined. The unexpected night revolution achieved a specific goal - Nikol Pashinyan freed himself from the ARFD and PPA, pushing these two parties into a hopeless marginal space.

It is also not by chance that rumors are rife around that the PPA is on the verge of collapse, and if Gagik Tsarukyan decides to dismiss the party, no one would be surprised. As for Dashnaktsutyun, it has not just appeared on the margins, but in a ditch, and it would take a long time for it to recover from the blow.

Nikol Pashinyan is certain that even if the opposition gets 5%, it will get a third of the votes in parliament as stipulated by the constitution. It is crystal clear that the 34 mandates are too few for the three parties - the RPA, ARFD and the PPA. And the only question left is which of the three parties would “sink” the other two in order to get a chance to become the third parliamentary opposition party.

The RPA turned out to be the most agile as it put the bill to the vote, “persuading” the ARFD and the Tsarukyan bloc to vote for it. In the RPA, for sure, they knew the reaction of Nikol Pashinyan and gave him a chance to accuse the ARFD and the PPA in the first instance of “counter-revolution”. It was natural because these two parties became part of the revolutionary government, but acted as counter-revolution in parliament.

Nikol Pashinyan dismissed the ministers and governors of these two parties, in fact, interrupting their connection with the revolution. The RPA, in turn, ousted them from the opposition, clearing the field in order to be able to get a third of the votes in the future parliament - without the PPA and the ARFD.

We can assume that in the future parliament there will be two forces - the Pashinyan party and the opposition, in the proportion of 70-30%, as is required by the Constitution. Such an arrangement will suit everyone, and the only question that remains is whether the RPA will succeed in becoming an opposition in parliament, or will follow suit of the PPA and ARFD at the last moment.

Vice-Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov of the Armenian parliament from the RPA says the party has no the conduct of the snap parliamentary election in December. Earlier, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that the early parliamentary elections will be held in December. Armenian political forces are declaring that they are not against the holding of extraordinary parliamentary elections, but they do not agree with the terms proposed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Such statements were immediately made by three political forces represented in the parliament: the Republican Party of Armenia, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the Dashnaktsutyun Party. Only the Elk bloc (Way-Out), which includes the Civil Contract party of the Armenian prime minister, agrees with the timing of the snap elections.

On October 2, presenting the details of the negotiations with representatives of the parliamentary forces, Prime Minister Pashinyan said that during the negotiations, representatives of the parliamentary factions said that if he resigns, they are not going to nominate another candidate for prime minister. However, Pashinyan said that he probably did not understand what exactly politicians have in mind, noting that they themselves will further clarify their positions.

On October 3, it turned out that Pashinyan had been told that the elections could be held not in December, but in May-June, as had been planned earlier. Yesterday at the meeting with Nikol Pashinyan, we did not reach any agreement. We listened to information about what the government is going to do. Mikael Melkumyan, vice-speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia from the Tsarukyan Bloc faction, said on October 3 in an interview with journalists.

In his words, the party is not against the holding of the snap elections though the stumbling block is the timing. He recalled that during the discussion and adoption of the government program, it was noted that the election should take place within a year. However, it was planned to hold them in May or June in order to create equal competitive conditions for all the political forces.

On whether or not there was an oral agreement that after Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation, the Tsarukyan bloc would not nominate its candidate for the position of prime minister, as the prime minister said yesterday that the parliamentary forces would not nominate their candidate, Melkumyan said:

We have no official decision regarding this issue. We discussed various issues, if a certain issue was discussed, this does not mean that the party is voicing a formal decision,” the vice speaker said.

According to another vice-speaker, RPA representative Eduard Sharmazanov, their party’s agenda does not include holding parliamentary elections in December. As Sharmazanov noted, at night, during a meeting with Nikol Pashinyan, the parliamentary forces did not come to a common denominator and did not reach a final agreement.

As the deputy speaker noted, they do not understand why Pashinyan insists that the elections should be held in December, and not in February or in spring. Sharmazanov stressed that they are proposing to hold elections in May, without haste, so that all political forces have time to get ready as the Electoral Code has been changed. At the moment, there is no agreement on the timing of the extraordinary parliamentary elections in Armenia, said the head of the parliamentary faction of the Dashnaktsutyun party, Armen Rustamyan.

“Nobody is against extraordinary parliamentary elections, the question is in terms. There is no agreement on this issue. The prime minister says elections should be held in December. We believe that it is necessary to reform the Electoral Code, to reduce the super-premiership, which at least means transferring the police to the government. With this change, the prime minister agrees. The question remains how much time will be allotted for society and political forces to adapt to the new conditions and prepare for the elections normally,” said Armen Rustamyan.

According to him, to put forward the demand for holding elections in December as an end in itself is the wrong approach. “If the only question is to hold the elections as soon as possible, and not under the new conditions - fair and equal for all - and to have as far as possible just elections, then it takes time. December is not the best time,” Armen Rustamyan recapped.