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Armenia's Parliament Dissolves In Final Step Toward Early Elections

Armenian caretaker Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks in parliament on May 10.

Armenia's parliament failed to elect a prime minister for the second time on May 10, triggering its own dissolution in a final move toward early elections next month.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who was swept to power in pro-democracy protests in 2018, resigned last month to run in an early election after facing criticism over his handling of last year’s conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

This was the second time lawmakers rejected Pashinian's candidacy, as part of a political deal made earlier between the parliament majority represented by Pashinian's My Step Alliance and two opposition factions -- Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia.

Only one lawmaker voted for Pashinian's candidacy, one voted against, with 76 abstaining.

Under Armenia’s constitution, the parliament must fail to elect a prime minister twice in order to be dissolved.

Both times Pashinian was nominated by My Step as a candidate to maintain the procedure for the parliament’s dissolution.

In the meantime, Pashinian has continued as caretaker prime minister.

Political Crisis

Armenia has been embroiled in a political crisis since Pashinian signed a Russian-brokered cease-fire on November 9, 2020, to end a 44-day war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinian agreed in March to hold the early vote next month. He has indicated that he favors June 20 as the date for the elections.

Opinion polls show that public confidence in Pashinian's government has fallen sharply since then, with its approval rating falling from 60 percent to around 30 percent last month.

Pashinian has come under fire since agreeing to the Moscow-brokered deal with Azerbaijan, which took effect on November 10, ending six weeks of fierce fighting in and around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh that saw ethnic Armenian forces suffer battlefield defeat.

Under the cease-fire, a part of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by Armenians.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the region's population reject Azerbaijani rule.

Observers expect Armenian ex-President Robert Kocharian -- who signed a deal with two opposition parties to run as leader of their alliance on May 9 -- to become Pashinian’s main challenger in the elections.

Addressing thousands of his supporters at a rally in central Yerevan on May 9, Kocharian said that losing power was the price the Pashinian government should pay for the defeat in the war.

With reporting by Reuters