YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has provoked a storm of criticism and defections from his political alliance with what critics see as a call for a violent response to opposition groups demanding his resignation.
In a late-night Facebook post, Pashinyan praised Armenian soldiers remaining on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontlines and voicing vocal support for his administration amid opposition protests in Yerevan sparked by the outcome of the war with Azerbaijan.
“Guys, you are right. I am waiting for you in Yerevan,” he wrote, calling on them to help him “sort out” his “whimpering” detractors.
Opposition and public figures were quick to condemn the statement. Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, added his voice to the condemnations on Monday.
Tatoyan noted that in recent days pro-Pashinyan combatants, most of them mobilized army reservists and volunteers, have circulated video messages containing death threats and hate speech against the prime minister’s political opponents. Pashinyan effectively endorsed those threats with his Facebook statement, he said.
The statement also prompted three pro-government members of the Armenian parliament to announce overnight that they will leave Pashinyan’s My Step alliance.
“Our political team is making one mistake after another,” one of the lawmakers, Taguhi Tovmasyan, wrote on Facebook. “Instead of admitting and correcting our mistakes, mitigating the situation through dialogue and thereby trying to ease tensions in our country, we are taking steps undermining foundations of the state.”
Pashinyan’s controversial appeal also led to the resignation of Varag Siserian, the top aide to Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan. Siserian said he has also decided to terminate his membership in the ruling Civil Contract party, the dominant component of My Step.
Pashinyan responded by accusing critics of misinterpreting his statement. Speaking at a news conference held on Monday morning, he insisted that he did not advocate any violent acts and simply wanted to show his appreciation to the soldiers staunchly supporting his administration.
Pashinyan said he plans to meet those servicemen in Yerevan in an effort to end opposition allegations that his decision to accept a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan amounted to high treason. “I must also say that nobody returning from the frontlines with weapons,” he added in that regard.
The premier went on to accuse the Armenian opposition and Tatoyan of not condemning violent mobs that ransacked government buildings in Yerevan and severely beat up parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan immediately after the announcement of the ceasefire agreement early on November 10.