Pashinyan’s Resignation: Early Elections Decision in Armenia

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After the loss of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, an extremely troublesome process started in Armenia. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has long ignored the opposition’s pressure and their calls for resignation, announced that he has taken the decision to resign. As a result of the development that is experienced, it was decided to hold early elections in the country on 20 June 2021.

In the light of these developments, Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views taken from the leading experts and academicians of the field to evaluate the meaning of Pashinyan’s decision to resign and its reflections on the region.

Hulusi KILIÇ (Retired Ambassador)

Former Ambassador of Turkey in Azerbaijan Hulusi Kılıç since the ceasefire agreement signed with Azerbaijan on November 10, 2020, that addressed the country’s conflicts has yet to be calmed down and said, “The opposition in Armenia has always demonstrated. Pashinyan dismissed Chief of General Staff’s General Gasparyan, however, President Sargsyan did not approve of this decision. In the following period, Gasparyan was dismissed again, but he has been reassigned. As the pressure exerted on Pashinyan by the opposition has increased recently, he found going early elections as a solution. He announced that he will continue his temporary presidency until 20 June 2021, which is the date of the elections, even if the decision of an early election was taken. All these developments show that even after the Karabakh defeat the internal unrest in the country continues. Therefore, when all these are evaluated, what has happened since 10 November 2020 has pushed Pashinyan to take this decision. In this context, after Pashinyan took the decision of early elections, the street demonstrations ended.”.

Stating that the early election decision is a solution for both Pashinyan and the opposition, Kılıç, “In the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijan acquired the Aghdam, Kelbajar, and Lachin without fighting in accordance with the ceasefire agreement on 10 November 2020. The victory that Azerbaijan had in 44 days was a great loss and defeat for Armenia’s side. After the ceasefire, both political leaders, the army, and the people suffered a moral collapse. Therefore, the development that dragged Pashinyan to resignation and early elections and sparked the process was the agreement on 10 November 2020.” said in his closing remarks.

İsmail Hakkı PEKİN (Retired Lieutenant General)

Retired Lieutenant General İsmail Hakkı Pekin, stating that there is huge pressure on Pashinyan from the Armed Forces of Armenia and said, “Until now, Russia has neither supported the armed forces nor Pashinyan and has taken a stand in the middle. He did not want to be too involved in the events. From the moment Russia got involved in the events, it is aware that the West, especially the US, will be involved in this issue. It is unknown whether Russia or the USA is behind Pashinyan. In the region, a game is being played between Russia and the USA with a high probability, after the elections on 20 June 2021, the region will again be conflicted. Because, during the process, neither a situation that would bring profit to Russia nor any conflict with Moscow in the means of aiming a reaction against it was experienced in Armenia. Since there was no such conflict, the West could not get what it wanted from the region. For Russia, it was positive that such a conflict did not occur. However, as a result of the developments to be experienced due to the early elections, there may be conflicts in the region again.”

Stating that Pashinyan’s resignation relieved both Russia and the West, Pekin, “The West will pursue a game in the region by using the elections as an excuse. Also, Russia will fight to prevent any conflict and unrest in the region. Because such confusion will not help Russia either. As soon as there is a conflict, various other problems can erupt at any moment.” said.

Emphasizing that Pashinyan’s decision to resign should not affect the ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan on 10 November 2020, Pekin, “The agreement was made under the guarantee of Russia. Therefore, the agreement must be adhered to. However, in the elections to be held, if the current opposition comes to power, there may be some rhetoric about the termination of the agreement in question. However, due to Russia’s guarantorship, I do not think that there will be a dispute on this issue. In the elections, it may be possible that a name that Russia never expected can win. This depends on the support from the USA. Washington will, of course, try to surround Moscow in this way.” said.

Prof. Dr. Yıldız DEVECİ BOZKUŞ (Ankara University)

Prof. Dr. Yıldız Deveci Bozkuş stated that after the defeat in Karabakh in 2020, there was a serious opposition in Armenia against Pashinyan, and he commented “Pashinyan was put under serious pressure in Yerevan by the people, opposition parties, and the army for days and was protested for his resignation. This situation had some negative effects on Armenia’s image and policies both at home and abroad, but despite all this, Pashinyan did not take a step back on his resignation. While some of the protesters pressured Pashinyan to resign as soon as possible, others pointed out the urgent need for early elections in the country. This situation caused things to get more conflicted in Armenia, which was already in a difficult situation both economically and politically.”

Deveci Bozkuş stated that Pashinyan decided to resign for the early elections planned to be held on 20 June 2021, “Many factors were effective in Pashinyan’s decision to make early elections. Russia’s policies in the region after the dissolution of the Soviet Union take the first place among these factors. It was known that Russia had an attitude against the Pashinyan administration from the very beginning. Secondly, the attitude of Moscow towards Pashinyan during the Nagorno-Karabakh War revealed that Putin started disregarding Pashinyan. Therefore, ​the tension between the two sides arose due to the Iskender Missiles, and then the Armenian Army gave a memorandum to Pashinyan. What happened after the memorandum was reflected in the world’s public opinion and the parties were called for restraint on this issue. At this point, Turkey’s principled stance has attracted particular attention. Although, after days of protests, Pashinyan did not fully back down, he decided to go to early elections, which is one of the beneficial ways for Armenia. For this reason, in order to relieve internal and external pressures, Pashinyan’s resignation was in a way a constitutionally necessary step for the early elections to be held on 20 June 2021. In this respect, the aforementioned resignation was brought to the agenda not as Pashinyan’s stepping back as expected, but because it was a constitutional requirement. This step is also important in terms of reducing the tension in the country.” evaluated by Bozkuş.

Deveci Bozkuş emphasized the question of “Does history repeat itself in Armenian politics?” that came to mind, after Levon Ter Petrosyan, the first President of Armenia, was forced to resign in 1998, similar to Pashinyan, and said “While Pashinyan’s decision for early elections was worrying the opposition in Armenia, on the other hand, it is also seen as an opportunity. In particular, 17 opposition parties, which are conducting an anti-government campaign, due to the possibility of fraud in the voting to achieve an expected result during the early elections have already raised their concern. In case of such a development, the people of Armenia will suffer the most. As a matter of fact, what happened during the coup attempt showed everyone how dangerous the developments could reach. After the Nagorno-Karabakh War, especially the pro-Russian supporters in Armenia put forward the former President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan as a political figure, while Ter Petrosyan’s claims against Pashinyan worsened the environment even more. Petrosyan’s claims that ‘he will take refuge in another country with legal guarantees in order not to be punished’ were harshly answered by Pashinyan. Stating that Petrosyan showed examples of escape twice throughout his political career, Pashinyan stated that even if the public decides to shoot him, he will stand under that firewall in modesty shows his determination.”

Also, Deveci Bozkuş commented, “Although the Nagorno-Karabakh War resulted in the resignation and early elections in Armenia, due to some groups in Armenia, and lastly, the statements by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that ‘Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be a part of Azerbaijan in any way’, shows that there is a society that does not take lessons from what is happening in the diplomacy and in the military wing is effective in the country. For this reason, the reflections of all these developments will be seen in the political decision of the people in Armenia at the ballot box.”

Deveci Bozkuş emphasized that the resignation, which came to the agenda due to the early elections to be held in Armenia on 20 June 2021, was not actually a step back, and said “In order to hold elections, Pashinyan must resign in accordance with the constitution. Therefore, this resignation can be considered as a formality step. Moreover, Pashinyan has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of leaving the power. In terms of tension in the country, having early elections in Armenia seems to be the safest way. The defeat during the war, military losses, and the effects of the war on the Armenian economy will cause some balances to change in the country during the new period. However, the leader who will come to the administration that uses a peaceful language, especially in foreign policy will be in the interest of both the Armenian community and the countries of the region. Furthermore, considering what has happened so far, it is time for Armenia, a country with thirty-years-long independence from after the disintegration of the Soviets to until now, to understand that they should adopt an attitude that prioritizes regional cooperation and peace rather than pursuing a pro-Russia or the United States (USA) policy. Because this uncompromising attitude is harming Armenia more than anyone else.”

Finally, Deveci Bozkuş said, “The only way the Armenian people can get rid of the bottleneck and political impasse is to come to power with a more peaceful policy. Thus, Armenia will be able to take an active role in all strategically important international energy, trade, security, and transportation projects to be implemented in the region, especially in the Caucasus and Central Asia. At this point in terms of the future of the South Caucasus, especially Turkey’s ‘Sextet Platform Proposal’ is very important. If Armenia wants to take part in this platform, in its new era, it should follow reformist policies in many areas, including its relations with neighbors and especially they should stop seeing Turkey as a security threat in terms of national security.”

Doç. Dr. Ali Servet ÖNCÜ (Atatürk University-International Relations)

Associate Professor Ali Servet Öncü’s statement on the subject, said, “Armenia’s domestic politics faced a great crisis after the war between the two countries, which started with the attack of Armenia on Azerbaijan on September 27, 2020, ended with the absolute superiority of Azerbaijan. While the opposition and the army in the country hold Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan responsible for the defeat, Russia, with which Pashinyan has kept their relations at a distance since the day he took office, left Pashinyan completely alone. While Pashinyan ignored the opposition’s requests to resign after the war, he attempted to dismiss Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan twice for attempting a military coup justification. However, President Armen Sargsyan has shown that he is close to the opposition and the army by not signing the Gasparyan’s dismissal decree.”

Öncü ended his statements by saying “Pashinyan, who on the one hand, lost the war with Azerbaijan and on the other hand had to struggle with the country’s heavy economic conditions,  and in the face of the army and the opposition’s pressure, as well as Russia’s lack of support to him, had to take an early election decision on 20 June 2021. Pashinyan announced that while the country was going to elections, as required by the constitution, he had to resign, but he would resign between April 20 and May 5, 2021, and until the election, he will continue his duty as prime minister. The decision to resign is a situation that shows that Pashinyan, who did not consider an early election, no longer had any room for action. Although Pashinyan’s election decision seems to have kept the country away from a military coup and the danger of civil war, for now, it is obvious that Armenia’s recovery is difficult in the short and medium-term. The opposition is thinking of winning the election, restoring relations with Russia, and gaining the support of Moscow in the region. The opposition against the Pashinyan is in a position to end Pashinyan’s rule if it is well prepared for the election.”

Kenan NOVRUZOV (Journalist – SHERQ News)

Journalist Kenan Novruzov said, “The period we left behind has shown that Pashinyan is not actually an ‘easy bite’. Pashinyan has chosen a different political path from Armenia’s previous rulers. While the different policies he implemented caused the country to be squeezed between Russia and the West, its relations with Moscow were also strained. Pashinyan’s resignation does not mean that he completely withdrew from politics. On the contrary, his decision to resign allowed him to relax until the elections.”

Novruzov ended his statements by saying, “The point that should not be overlooked when deciding to hold early elections on 20 June 2021 is that, according to the Armenian Constitution, the leader whose duty is still in the office does not have the right to be a candidate in the new elections. Therefore, Pashinyan gave his resignation for this reason. In fact, its purpose is to maintain its power as the winner in the new elections. If everything happens as Pashinyan’s will, I think Armenia-Azerbaijan relations will return to normal. Russia is also aware of this situation. Moscow is not happy with Pashinyan. However, Pashinyan, who has the West and some of the public’s supports behind him, should not be seen as an easy target. For this reason, the ‘homework’ Russia is working on is to keep Pashinyan fully committed to Moscow, even if he wins in the early elections. In this sense, pro-Russian politicians such as Kocharyan and Serj Sarkisyan come to the forefront. In this aspect, Pashinyan’s job is very difficult.”

Özge Eletek 1999 yılında İzmir’de doğdu. İlk ve orta öğretim hayatını İzmir’de tamamlayan Eletek, 2017 yılında Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nü kazandı. Çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında birçok konferans ve seminere katılan Eletek, Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi’ndeki stajını sürdürmektedir.