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Pashinian's Bid To Force Snap Elections Advances In Armenian Parliament


Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian
Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian

Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's parliamentary faction has nominated him for the top post for the second time in a week, executing part of a plan to force snap elections that could increase his dominance four months after he came to power.

The nomination by the Yelk faction, backed by an allied grouping and some independent lawmakers, was a tactical move meant to lead to the dissolution of parliament and early elections, Yelk faction leader Lena Nazarian told RFE/RL on October 30.

A former opposition lawmaker, Pashinian took office in May after spearheading weeks of protests that prompted the resignation his long-ruling predecessor, Serzh Sarkisian of the Republican Party of Armenia (HKK).

Since his My Step political alliance scored a landslide victory in municipal elections in Yerevan in September, Pashinian has been pushing for an early parliamentary vote in a bid to unseat the HHK, which has maintained a majority in the legislature.

He stepped down on October 16 to pave the way for the dissolution of the current National Assembly, in which he controls only a handful of seats.

Under the Armenian Constitution, snap elections can be called only if the prime minister resigns and the parliament fails to replace him or her within two weeks.

New elections must be held no more than 45 days after that happens.

Yelk first nominated Pashinian as prime minister on October 23 and lawmakers rejected the nomination the next day. The second nomination required the signatures of one-third of the lawmakers in parliament.

Yelk, which has only nine seats in the 105-member National Assembly, was backed by the Tsarukian Bloc's 31 lawmakers as well as four lawmakers who earlier quit the HHK faction.

Pashinian’s candidacy is again expected to be rejected in a vote scheduled for November 1.

If that happens, it would trigger the dissolution of parliament and snap elections in the first half of December.

Speaking to RFE/RL on October 30, HHK spokesman and deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov confirmed that the party will not raise obstacles to the dissolution of parliament by fielding its own candidate or voting for Pashinian.

Sharmazanov also reiterated criticism of the current government and its head, saying that "Pashinian is an eloquent speaker, but a poor prime minister."

In a setback for Pashinian, he has been unable to muster enough votes to adopt legislation that would change the mechanism for distributing parliament seats, which critics believe favored the HHK in April 2017 elections.

Pashinian's Civil Contract Party formed the Yelk alliance together with two other parties ahead of the 2017 elections.

After winning seats in parliament, those two parties withdrew support for Pashinian during the protests he led in April 2018, only to back him again after the protests pushed Sarkisian from power.

Yelk now exists only as a parliamentary faction.

My Step, which was formed by Pashinian after the success of the protest movement, consists of his Civil Contract Party and a number of activists who supported the protests.

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