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Embattled Armenian PM Announces Early Parliamentary Elections In June


Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian

YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has agreed to hold early general elections in June in an effort to defuse a political crisis sparked by the war with Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Pashinian said in a post on Facebook on March 18 that following talks with the leader of the opposition parliamentary faction Prosperous Armenia, Gagik Tsarukian, it was agreed that early elections will be held on June 20.

During their meeting, Pashinian and Tsarukian agreed that the snap elections were "the best way out of the current internal political situation," the prime minister wrote.

"Taking into account my discussions with President [Armen Sarkisian], the My Step faction, the leader of the Bright Armenia faction Edmon Marukian, early parliamentary elections will be held in the Republic of Armenia on June 20," he added.

Armenia has been in the grip of political upheaval since November, when Pashinian signed a Moscow-brokered cease-fire agreement with Azerbaijan that ended six weeks of fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Under the deal, a chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by ethnic Armenian forces.

A coalition of 16 opposition parties has been holding anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan and other parts of the country in a bid to force Pashinian to step down over his handling of the war, during which more than 6,000 people were killed.

But the prime minister, whose My Step faction dominates parliament, has refused to resign, defending the Russia-mediated agreement as the only way to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning Nagorno-Karabakh, while his supporters rallied in his support to counter the pressure for his resignation.

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

They had been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops and Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region and seven adjacent districts in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.