At His Own Rally, Pashinyan Again Backtracks on Snap Elections
Homeland Salvation Movement activists, who have been blocking Baghramyan Street for days, were joined by thousands of other protesters on Monday, when the movement held a rally in support of the Armenian Armed Forces under the banner of “Nation, Army, Victory.”
Minutes later, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whose resignation the Homeland Salvation Movement is demanding, held his own rally at Republic Square, where he told his supporters that he would call snap parliamentary elections if the parliamentary opposition agreed to it. This was another u-turn by the prime minister who weeks ago announced that snap elections were not necessary because there wasn’t enough popular support for them, at that time, backtracking from a pledge he had made in December to consult with all political factions and schedule snap polls.
The Homeland Salvation Movement followers continued to voice their support for the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Colonel-General Onik Gasparyan, who on Thursday issued an announcement calling for Pashinyan’s resignation. This statement was also supported by Armenia’s military brass and sparked a very public disagreement between the prime minister and the president, who opposed Gasparyan’s firing by Pashinyan.
One of the speakers at the rally, former defense minister Seyran Ohanyan, said the purpose of the rally was to express support to the Armed Forces. “Today we all stand in the ranks of the Armenian army,” said Ohanyan who urged the law enforcement bodies to not interfere in the activities of the army, calling on the people to support the Armed Forces.
“Keep your back straight and your fists raised up high. For four months every day has been November 9,” said Ruben Mkhitaryan, referring to the agreement Pashinyan signed, along with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the military actions in Karabakh. The agreement also called for the surrender of the territories in Artsakh and Armenia to Azerbaijan.
Saying that “November 9 continues every day and night,” Mkhitaryan said in order to have a better future Armenia needs to rid itself of Nikol Pashinyan.
“These people [the government] aren’t going heal wounds. They want to prove that for them their positions are more important,” said Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia member Taron Tonoyan in an address the rally.
“They [the country’s leadership] already retreated when they proposed dialogue and elections. When they thought that the movement on the street had diminished, they said there is not public demand [for elections]… For them the security of Armenia has no value,” added Tonoyan.
The ARF leader added that for the past three years the country’s leadership divided the nation, disenfranchised the army and called academicians, intellectuals and businesspeople “looters,” saying that the reason for all this was became the leadership “loves their positions more than the homeland.”
Ishkhan Saghatelyan, the chairman of the ARF Supreme Council of Armenia and the coordinator of the Homeland Salvation Movement, referenced an apology issued Pashinyan during his dueling rally at Republic Square.
“We are not going to bring our lost boys [soldiers] with an apology; we are not going to bring back Shushi and Hadrut with an apology. We are not going to be satisfied with an apology. You have to leave,” said Saghatelyan referring to Pashinyan.
The Homeland Salvation Movement’s candidate for prime minister Vazgen Manukyan told protesters that “we not only must rebuild what we had in the past, we must achieve a higher level,” saying that the mistakes of the past allowed Pashinyan to come to power and “for the enemy to invade Armenia. If we continue in the same vein the enemies will again invade Armenia.”
At the conclusion of the rally, the protesters marched the presidential office and expressed their support to President Armen Sarkissian. Earlier in the day, Sarkissian again rejected a proposal by Pashinyan to fire Colonel-General Gasparyan.
During his rally, Pashinyan said he would agree to snap elections if the parliamentary opposition supports that proposal. He also called for a new constitution that envisions a semi-presidential form of government for Armenia.
Pashinyan also offered an apology to the all Armenians in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora for the “mistakes that I have allowed.” He said the reason mistakes were allowed because the “government was popular and well-liked.”
He, once again, blamed the previous governments and opposition forces for the shortcomings of his administration.