Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan officially announced his resignation on April 25, 2021, triggering the process to hold an early parliamentary election. To be clear, he is not stepping away from politics.
The announcement was not unexpected. After months of protests following Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 Artsakh War, the PM had announced in March that he would hold an early election on June 20, 2021. The only constitutional method to make that happen would be for him to vacate the office of Prime Minister, and for the Parliament to not vote in a new Prime Minister after two attempts over a two week period. Only after the second failed attempt to vote for a Prime Minister is the Parliament dissolved and the election date confirmed.
He also had made it clear at the time that he would be running again to allow the Armenian people to decide who would lead them. “The people will be able to form a legitimate government,” Pashinyan said, adding that his programs will be aimed at strengthening Armenia's security, developing the country and ensuring prosperity. The announcement had been misreported in some international reports, which gave the impression that he no longer planned to lead the country.
The country was swept into turmoil following the signing of the November 9 ceasefire agreement that ended the 44-day war, which left more than 4000 dead, over 11,000 wounded, tens of thousands displaced and saw Artsakh ceding large swaths of territory to Azerbaijan. A group of opposition parties calling themself the Homeland Salvation Movement (HSM) were demanding Pashinyan step down to allow for the formation of a transitional government that would address the crippling issues facing the country. Months of street protests by the HSM failed to force the PM’s resignation. In the meantime, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces, top military brass, the country’s president, the Catholicos and others continued to demand that he step down.
The following is an unofficial translation of the Prime Minister’s announcement:
On March 18 of this year, following consultations with the President of the Republic, the parliamentary factions, I announced the decision to hold snap parliamentary elections in Armenia on June 20. According to the current constitution of the Republic of Armenia, snap parliamentary elections can be possible after the resignation of the Prime Minister and the failure of parliament to elect a new PM twice. This, according to the law, means the parliament is automatically dissolved and snap parliamentary elections are scheduled.
Today, I resign from my position as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia in order to implement the decision to hold snap parliamentary elections on June 20. The constitution also presumes that there will be a vote in parliament to elect a new PM, before the parliament is dissolved. To uphold this requirement, I will be nominated as a candidate for PM twice (during both votes). The other parliamentary factions will not nominate another candidate for the post of PM. The parliamentary majority will not elect a PM, the National Assembly will be dissolved and snap parliamentary elections will be scheduled. In the meantime, I will continue to carry out my duties in the capacity [of acting PM] as foreseen by law.
To hold elections on June 20, my resignation did not have to be today. But I saw it fit to resign today, on Citizen’s Day. This is to symbolize the return of the authority given to us by the citizens of Armenia back to the citizens so that they can decide the future of Armenia's government in free, fair and competitive elections.
I will not talk about the successes and failures since 2018 in this address, nor about the victories and the defeats. I have addressed those issues on multiple occasions and the upcoming campaign period will present many opportunities to talk about them.
At this time, I want to once again underscore the reason why we consider snap parliamentary elections important. In 2020, we have been through disastrous events, almost all political forces, government members, intellectuals, the clergy, non-governmental organizations and other informal groups have talked about the reasons, foundations and the solutions of what has happened. The only entity that did not have the institutional opportunity to express an opinion was the people. And therefore the people must be given the opportunity to have their say, to give an evaluation of the past and the present, and make decisions regarding the future. Snap elections are being held to create that opportunity.
I expressed my intention to hold snap elections in 2021 at the end of 2020. But the idea was rejected by a number of forces because they believed the fate of the authorities should be decided behind the closed doors of “elite” rooms and that the people should be isolated from this process. This was their action plan not only because they understood that they have no chance of enjoying the trust of the ultimate source of power in the country, that is the people, but also because it is their political credo that people driven to polling stations in Gazelles [trucks] and under administrative pressure should only affirm the decisions made the the “elite.” We however believe the contrary. The expression of the free will of the people is the only source of authority and sovereignty. And only the people should decide the future of that authority. I consider myself the guarantor of this opportunity and right.
I want to emphasize that our Civil Contract Party will run in the snap parliamentary elections, I will run for the post of Prime Minister. If the people decide that I must leave the position of Prime Minister, I will comply with that decision. We will obey the decisions made by the people, we will fulfill our responsibilities to the people.
In conclusion, I would like to once again express my condolences to all our fallen brothers and sisters in the 44-day war and their families. To express our support to the families of all our missing compatriots, to wish patience and endurance to all our captured compatriots, to their relatives, to say that our captured compatriots will definitely return, and we must have the strength to ensure their return.
Do not doubt for one second, know and be assured, that Armenia and Artsakh do have a future and creating that future starts today. Bowing before all of our martyrs one more time, I congratulate all of us on Citizen’s Day.
Long live freedom.
Long live the Republic of Armenia.
Long live Artsakh.
And long live all of us, our children, who will live in a free and happy Armenia, in a free and happy Artsakh.