Armenian Parliament Fails to Elect Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister

The Armenian Parliament failed to elect opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan Prime Minister on Tuesday May 1st 2018, despite his warnings about continued unrest in the country.

Pashinyan was backed by only 45 members of the 105 seat National Assembly following a lengthy and heated debate on his bid to succeed Serzh Sargsyan as Premier. He needed at least 53 votes.

Fifty-five other lawmakers representing Sargsyan’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) voted against him in line with a decision announced by the HHK leadership shortly before the vote. HHK leaders said during the debate that Pashinyan is not fir to govern the country. They also pointed to his lack of government experience and questioned his ability to serve as commander-in-chief of Armenia’s armed forces.

Several HHK deputies also pointed out Pashinyan’s past harsh criticisms of Armenia’s membership in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). They claimed that Armenia could find itself at odds with Russia if he comes to power. Pashinyan is a parliament member.

Pashinyan tried in vain to win over at least some members of the HHK majority when he twice gave speeches in the parliament and answered questions from over two dozen lawmakers. In the end, only HHK deputy, Felix Tsolakian, voted for him.

One of Dashnaktsutyun’s seven deputies, Aghvan Vartanian, refused to back the opposition candidate, however, defying a decision made by his party. Vartanian said he is ready to resign from the parliament as a result. Pashinyan warned before the vote that the parliament’s failure to choose him as Prime Minister would mean that the ruling party has “destroyed itself at once and irreversibly”. He also said that the full victory of his popular movement is inevitable. “A force declaring a war on its own people cannot exist and what we are seeing is not the HHK or its parliamentary faction but a ghost,” he said. He strongly condemned HHK claims that his premiership would hurt Russian-Armenian ties and increase the risk of a war with Azerbaijan. Pashinyan warned Ruling Party MPs of a “political tsunami” if they did not back him.

The parliament vote came as tens of thousands of Pashinyan supporters again rallied in Yerevan’s Republic Square. The opposition leader joined them later in the evening.

The vote result means that the parliament will have to meet again on May 8th for another debate on the next Prime Minister. Under the Armenian constitution, the legislature will be automatically disbanded and fresh elections will be called if it again fails to choose a Premier.

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