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Armenian Ex-President Kocharian Plans To Take Part In Early Elections

Robert Kocharian greets supporters during his trial in Yerevan in February 2020.

YEREVAN -- Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian, currently on trial on charges stemming from his alleged role in a 2008 crackdown on the opposition, says he will participate in early parliamentary elections if they are called.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has come under heavy public criticism and pressure to step down after signing a cease-fire accord with Azerbaijan that ceded control over parts of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts after a 44-day war.

In a half-hour interview with Armenia's leading media outlets on January 27, Kocharian said Pashinian and his government should resign to allow a provisional government to take over the country until early elections can be held.

"I will take part in the early elections with my team and we will win.... Otherwise we will allow [Pashinian's government] to remain in power," Kocharian said.

Opposition politicians have demanded Pashinian's resignation over his signing of the Moscow-brokered truce agreement with Azerbaijan to stop the war in November that ended with Baku regaining control over land that had been under ethnic Armenian control since the early 1990s.

Kocharian, who served as the South Caucasus country's president from 1998 to 2008, is currently on trial on charges stemming from his alleged role in a 2008 postelection crackdown on the opposition, as well as on suspicion of taking bribes.

He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the charges, which he rejects as politically motivated.

Kocharian was released from pretrial detention on bail in June 2020.

Before that, since being arrested in July 2018, Kocharian was released twice by court decisions, but in both cases he was rearrested following appeals by the prosecutors.

The 66-year-old native of the Nagorno-Karabakh region was one of the leaders of separatist forces and became its first de facto president between December 1994 and March 1997.