Opposition factions in Armenia's parliament have called for an end to martial law after it was declared following the outbreak of war with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2020.
During a March 15 session of the parliament’s defense committee, the Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia factions accused the government of maintaining the measure for political purposes amid the opposition calls for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign over his handling of the war.
A Moscow-brokered cease-fire deal with Azerbaijan took effect on November 10, 2020, ending six weeks of fierce fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under the agreement, a chunk of contested region and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by Armenians.
Prosperous Armenia lawmaker Arman Abovian said martial law, imposed on September 27, “does not correspond to the current situation and is a serious obstacle to political developments.”
Abovian pointed out one provision of the law under which the prime minister cannot be impeached as a possible reason Pashinian has not moved to withdraw the measure.
Bright Armenia head Edmon Marukian also complained that the parliamentary opposition “cannot start a no-confidence motion during martial law.”
“In the Yerevan municipality, the assembly of lawmakers cannot start a no-confidence vote against the mayor and so on. Elections that were scheduled in the town of Ijevan and some other communities have been postponed because martial law has not been lifted yet,” Marukian said.
Pro-government lawmakers who sit on parliament’s Defense Committee said they were in favor of ending martial law but only in due time.
They said that most restrictions regarding freedom of assembly and speech were lifted in December 2020.
“If all the grounds for martial law are eliminated, of course, this martial law will be lifted as early as possible,” said Armen Khachatrian, a member of the majority My Step faction.
Khachatrian said he expected the government to initiate a bill to lift martial law “within the next seven or 10 days.”
The committee’s pro-government head Andranik Kocharian tied the lifting of martial law to the ongoing political discussions surrounding snap parliamentary elections.
“The sooner we create harmonious political conditions or reach consensus, the sooner martial law will be lifted, because there will be snap elections, and there can be no elections during the effect of martial law,” Kocharian said.
A coalition uniting 16 opposition parties has been holding anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan and other parts of the country in a bid to force Pashinian to hand over power to an interim government.
Pashinian, whose My Step faction dominates parliament, has refused to step down but has hinted at accepting early parliamentary elections under certain conditions.
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.
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.