Pashinyan Fires Tsarukian Bloc and ARF Ministers, Governors
The political uproar in Armenia’s National Assembly that sparked a mass protest with tens of thousands of demonstrators blocking the parliament building ended on Tuesday with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan meeting with political factions in the legislature and, after nearly two hours, emerging to announce that parliamentary factions had pledged to not impede snap parliamentary elections, which Pashinyan said should take place in the first half of December.
Pashinyan called for the people to take to the streets after the Republican Party of Armenia on Tuesday called an emergency session of parliament and in an unprecedented voice vote managed to alter a key provision in the law to thwart efforts for holding snap parliamentary elections, one of Pashinyan’s key priorities. On Tuesday he called for the elections to be held in early December.
All members of parliament who attended the emergency session were locked in the parliament building and could not leave.
Former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia introduced a motion, authored by deputy parliament speaker Arpine Hovhannisyan, whereby the parliament would not dissolve itself in the event that the prime minister resigns and the parliament fails to elect a new leader after two attempts or in two weeks—a constitutional provision that would abet snap elections.
WATCH THE EVENTS UNFOLD
The Republican Party of Armenia’s version stipulates that if the parliament is unable to elect a prime minister and is unable to convene its sessions due to unforeseen obstacles, it would simply be in recess and not be dissolved. The motion was approved with 67 votes in a hand vote—an unusual step by parliament—by the Republican Party of Armenia, the businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The only faction that opposed the measure was the Yelk bloc, affiliated with Pashinyan.
After Pashinyan met with the parliamentary factions at the parliament speaker, Ara Babloyan’s office late on Tuesday night, he was greeted by the thousands of protesters who stood vigil at the National Assembly compound and briefed them on his perception of the talks.
“Today we demonstrated that early elections are a pan-Armenian demand and the political forces that oppose this demand in essence, will be declaring war against their own people. My impression is that our colleagues from the Republican Party of Armenia, the ARF and the Tsarukyan bloc have realized this message,” Pashinyan emphasized.
He explained that while he wished for a written memorandum of understanding, the other political factions gave him verbal agreements that they would not introduce their own candidate when Pashinyan resigns to start the snap election process.
Pashinyan said that he explained to the parliament members that if the other political parties put forth a prime minister candidate, “they have to realize that they would be going against the peoples’ wish. It would not be the most intelligent option. It will have a negative effect.”
He said he justified holding the parliamentary vote as soon as possible would enable Armenia to entangle itself from what he called “a political crisis plaguing the nation.”
Pragmatically speaking, he said, early to mid December would be the most logical time, given that parliament needs 14 days from the day he submits his resignation, explaining that per the Constitution, another 30 to 40 days were required to hold a vote.
Pashinyan said he would resign in the coming days, but, in accordance with the Constitution, he will continue to carry out the duties of the prime minister until the snap elections. He reminded the crowd that he would be traveling to Paris Thursday to attend Charles Aznavour funeral, where he will be joined by President Armen Sarkissian, who is on a working with to the United States and with whom Pashinyan said, he has been in continued contact throughout the day
In a fiery speech during the rally before he headed to parliament, Pashinyan fired the ministers and governors representing the Tsarukyan bloc and the ARF.
The ARF Supreme Council of Armenia issued an statement calling back its ministers–Agriculture Minister Arthur Khachatryan and Economic Development Minister Artsvik Minasyan–as well as the governors of two provinces from the government ahead of Pashinyan’s announcement.
“Taking into consideration the tense and divisive atmosphere, the ARF is calling it representatives in the government back,” said ARF Supreme Council of Armenia chairman Arsen Hambartsoumyan.
“Today we have to speak about the new political situation in Armenia and its solution. Yesterday and today a shameful bill was hastily introduced by the members of parliement representing the Republican Party of Armenia, and supported by the Tsarukyan bloc and the ARF, the aim of which is very clear: carry out counter-revolution in Armenia by blocking the opportunities of holding early parliamentary elections. And yes, the adoption of this bill is a conspiracy against the highest power of Armenia – the people of Armenia,” said Pashinyan during a rally in front of the prime minister’s headquarters earlier on Tuesday night.
Pashinyan told the thousands gathered at the prime minister’s headquarters on 26 Baghramyan Avenue that he will resign his post, as soon as the dismissals of the ARF and Tsarukian ministers come into force. His resignation would spark the process of electing a new parliament.
“When the decision of dismissing the aforementioned ministers and governors come into effect, I will resign from the post of prime minister immediately, so that no one thinks that I am clinging to the prime ministerial post. After that, the parliament must elect a new prime minister after 7+1 days. If a prime minister isn’t elected, another 7+1 days must pass, during which a new prime minister may be elected. If it [the parliament] does not elect a prime minister during this period, early elections of parliament will take place,” explained Pashinyan.
“If it turns out that the people are calling for early elections of parliament, we, together with the people, will be able to not allow the parliament to elect a new prime minister. But after resigning I will continue carrying out the duties of prime minister, according to the Constitution,” Pashinyan added.
Pashinyan called on President Sarkissian to not sign the measure that was adopted by parliament on Tuesday.
“The president must either sign the bill or apply to the Constitutional Court to question its constitutionality. I think you will authorize me to address President Armen Sarkissian from here right now to [urge him to] not sign this measure and appeal to the Constitutional Court,” said Pashinyan before heading to the National Assembly to hold negotiations with lawmakers that have been barricaded inside the legislature.
Before the Republican Party of Armenia convened the special session of parliament, Pashinyan had told reporters that snap parliamentary elections would take place in December.
“We must note that after the recent developments early elections of parliament will take place in Armenia in 2018 December. Direct democratic government will be established in Armenia. If it turns out that I am not the people’s representative in the status of prime minister, then elections won’t take place, but if it turns out that I am the people’s representative in the status of prime minister, then elections will take place,” said Pashinyan referring to the law that if parliament elects a new prime minister the parliament will not dissolve and the country would be led by the elected leader.
Because the current constitution does not have any other provision for the parliament to dissolve itself, Pashinyan’s only recourse to stage snap elections is for parliament to not elect a leader after two attempts or within two weeks of a resignation. The Republican Party of Armenia’s bill thwarted that constitutional provision.