Anti-Pashinyan Protests in Armenia and Disputes on Coup D’état

After the ceasefire agreement was signed, which ended the 44-day war in Nagorno Karabakh, protests started in Armenia as of November 2020. Through this agreement, Armenia’s loss of control over Nagorno Karabakh, after its occupation of Azerbaijani territories for more than 25 years, was not accepted by the Armenian people and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was held responsible for the defeat. Thus, the crisis situation arose in the country was followed by social protests demanding early parliamentary elections and the Pashinyan administration’s positive attitude toward this demand and then his retreat.  In fact, the government adopted a change in the agenda throughout the country with this way.  However, the situation turned out to be completely the opposite, and it changed its course to a new, more complex period.

What is happening in Armenia?

Since February 23, 2021, Armenia has been extensively debated with the events described by Pashinyan as a “coup attempt.” Tiran Khachatryanthe, the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, was dismissed by Pashinyan on 24 February 2021 after criticizing the Prime Minister’s remarks about the ineffectiveness of the Russian Iskander-M tactical missile systems. After that, on February 25, 2021, when the General Staff demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister and the government, Pashinyan opponents and supporters started mass protests in Armenia.  The statement demanding resignation was signed by Onik Gasparyan, Chief of General Staff, his deputies, heads of departments and corps. Pashinyan considered the statement as an attempt to “coup d’état” and announced that the Chief of General Staff was dismissed.

According to the Armenian Constitution, the President can send the decree back to the Prime Minister with his objections within three days. If the Prime Minister does not accept these objections, then the President must sign the appropriate one or apply to the Constitutional Court.[1] In this respect, the decision taken by the Prime Minister was not approved by the President of Armenia. President Armen Sarksyan sent the order back to Pashinyan on February 27, 2021, saying that he could not approve the decision because he thought some parts of it were “unconstitutional.” Sarksyan, stated that he is obliged to protect his country from threats to constitutional order and security and to ensure the stability of the state, said that: [2]

“There is no doubt that the army must preserve its neutrality. It is clear that in connection with the war, military personnel need our support more than ever. I do not support any political power myself. The draft decree taken by the Prime Minister was examined by lawyers and experts and was not approved because it was decided to be against the Constitution.”

After Sarksyan’s refusal to dismiss the Chief of General Staff, about 15,000 protesters, who demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister of Armenia, intensified their actions in the capital.

Positions of Foreign Powers on the Political Crisis in Armenia

It can be said that the political crisis that is exacerbating day by day in Armenia is mostly caused by domestic problems. In this regard, it is possible to categorize the problems as follows.

  • There is growing discontent in Armenian society due to political corruption. People are displeased with both the outcome of the war and the increasing social stratification within the country. This caused an obvious division and an apparent polarization in Armenian politics.
  • The arrest of civilian activists during the protests has further triggered people to march in the streets. As a result, a solidarity has emerged between the opposition and the people.
  • The Yerevan government, which made concessions in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, played into the opposition’s hands, especially the politicians of Karabakh origin, who wanted to turn this issue into a political maneuver.

For all these reasons, the confrontation between the government and the opposition has deepened and the crisis between the opposition and the Pashinyan supporters, who are trying to get pro-Russian politicians to come to power, has escalated.

Political crisis, especially competing for influence in the South Caucasus region, is closely monitored by Russia and Turkey. Russia was the first country to make its position clear toward the event, which was described as a “military coup” by the Pashinyan administration. Kremlin, emphasized what was happening in Armenia as an “internal issue” and that there was no need to implement the Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal.  Another country that interpreted the situation in Armenia was Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the speech of the Chief of General Staff that called for a change in the government and reiterated his stance against a coup d’état in any way.[3]

On the other hand, global actors such as the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU) also made statements regarding the developments in Armenia. The U.S. called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Armenia and reminded that the Constitution should be complied with.[4]  Similarly, the EU called on the Armenian Army to remain neutral on political issues. Also, the EU stated that Yerevan should adhere to parliamentary democracy and resolve the conflicts in a peaceful way.[5]

Although it is said that people protesting in the streets and demanding a change of power are related to domestic problems, it can also be argued that foreign actors and especially Russia are behind these events. Pashinyan’s announcement of the Iskander-M tactical missiles, the attempt to portray Russia as a target, the Yerevan’s consultation with European states during the Nagorno-Karabakh War and asking these states to be active in the solution process affected this as well.

As a result, there is an unprecedented crisis in Armenia and it requires structural and comprehensive solutions. On the one hand, the political bloc led by the former President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan appeals to the citizens of the country to support the army against Pashinyan by saying “the government that agreed to concession of our lands must resign.” On the other hand, Pashinyan is resisting not to abandon the government. In this case, the following question comes to mind: If there is a change of power in Armenia, how will the political situation in the region be affected?

If another figure comes to power in Yerevan, tension may escalate both in Armenia and in the region. Especially if the opposition has a power, groups that want to have revenge of the Nagorno Karabakh War may adopt aggressive policies. Accordingly, conflicts may occur between Azerbaijan and Armenia again and the Armenian Army can try to compensate the loss of prestige created by the defeat of the war with the new invasion attempt. Undoubtedly, this scenario would cause Russia to be more influential in Armenia. This would strengthen Russia’s influence in the South Caucasus, as well as disrupt the corridor projects desired to be implemented in the region.

In any case, the crisis, which not only divides the Armenian political elites but also causes the situation in the country to become inextricable, would have important political consequences. However, it is premature to assert a claim on this. Time will show how this will proceed.


[1] “ Президент Армении Еще не Принял Решения по Отставке Главы Генштаба (Prezident Armenii Yeshche ne Prinyal Resheniya po Otstavke Glavy Genshtaba)”, Komersant.ru, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4710529#id2019467, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).

[2] “Президент Армении Отказался Отправлять в Отставку Начальника Генштаба (Prezident Armenii Otkazalsya Otpravlyat v Otstavku Nachal’nika Genshtaba)”, Tass.ru, https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/10797259, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).

[3] “Президент Армении Отказался Отправлять в Отставку Начальника Генштаба (Prezident Armenii Otkazalsya Otpravlyat v Otstavku Nachal’nika Genshtaba)”, Tass.ru, https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/10797259, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).

[4] “Кризис в Армении: Противостояние Пашиняна и Генштаба Продолжается (Krizis v Armenii: Protivostoyaniye Pashinyana i Genshtaba Prodolzhayetsya)”, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-56217754, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).

[5] “Президент Армении Отказался Отправлять в Отставку Начальника Генштаба (Prezident Armenii Otkazalsya Otpravlyat v Otstavku Nachal’nika Genshtaba)”, Tass.ru, https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/10797259, (Erişim Tarihi: 28.02.2021).

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Nazrin ALIZADA
Nazrin ALIZADA
1992 AZERBAYCAN doğumlu Nazrin ALİZADA, 2013 yılında Bakü Devlet Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünden iyi bir derece ile mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Azerbaycan Devlet İktisat Üniversitesi Türk Dünyası İşletme Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler ve Diplomasi bölümünde yüksek lisans eğitimi almaya başlamış ve 2015 yılında yüksek lisans derecesi almıştır. 2016 yılında Gazi Universitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde doktora eğitimi almaya başlamış ve halen eğitimi devam etmektedir. Daha önce farklı uluslararası kongrelere katılarak sunumlar yapıb yazıları yayımlanan Nazrin ALİZADA, iyi derecede ingilizce ve orta derecede Rusça bilmektedir.

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