Caught in the grips of the post-war period with numerous economic, territorial, moral, and psychological issues, Armenia’s internal political crisis seems to be making things worse. At times when being united is the only solution, the ruling party makes decisions that are likely to take the country through greater turmoil.
After his meetings with the leaders of the parliamentary opposition, prime minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the date of the upcoming elections. According to the statement released by the PM on his Facebook page, the elections are to be held on June 20, 2021 .
During his meeting with President Armen Sarkissian on March 23, Nikol Pashinyan stated the importance of amending the Constitution. According to the prime minister, all sides have agreed on organizing snap elections based on the proportional representation system.
Who Will Take Part in the Elections?
Parliamentary opposition leaders Edmon Marukyan (Bright Armenia) and Gagik Tsarukyan (Prosperous Armenia) have both confirmed their participation in the snap elections scheduled for June 20.
Vazgen Manukyan, the prime minister candidate of the extra-parliamentary opposition, believes that snap elections will deepen the crisis and that they will continue fighting for Pashinyan’s resignation.
The coordinator of the movement and the representative of the ARF Supreme Body Ishkhan Saghatelyan doesn’t trust Pashinyan’s intentions to hold snap elections. And while the movement is not against holding special elections, they believe PM Pashinyan is not the one to organize them.
Artur Vaneetsyan, the leader of ‘Homeland’ party, also announced his intention to take part in parliamentary elections to be held in June despite being part of the ‘Homeland Salvation’ movement.
Former president Robert Kocharyan, against whom a criminal case was dropped on March 26 after being in process for two years, reaffirmed his willingness to take part in snap elections earlier in March.
Will Armenia’s Snap Elections Solve or Deepen the Crisis?
Politicians and political experts have different views on the effectiveness of the snap elections and their impact on the current situation. While some think that they are a way for the leading government to buy time and make the wave of protests die down, others believe that they will only deepen the crisis leaving even fewer chances for the county to revive.
Political analyst and former chief of staff of parliament Ara Saghatelyan believes that Pashinyan may use parliamentary elections to provoke conflicts, aggravating the situation. Pashinyan seems to have already started his election campaign. On March 20, the prime minister visited a village in Aragatsotn. What Saghatelyan is worried about is that Pashinyan involved children in this at the cost of their safety and who knows what he will do next.
Former prime minister Khosrov Harutyunyan noted in his recent interview that snap elections, where the leading authorities will take part, are simply illogical. Pashinyan and his team have failed, causing the country irreversible damage and they shouldn’t even be thinking about participating in the upcoming elections.
In the meantime, embattled prime minister Pashinyan is going to top the leading party’s slate in the elections.
Growing Hostility Within the Society
The 44-day war left the people of both Armenia and Artsakh demoralized, with major human, territorial, and material losses. One of the consequences of the demoralizing defeat is the growing hostility within the society.
As 75 percent of Nagorno Karabakh is now officially part of Azerbaijan, thousands of Artsakhians are unable to return to their homes and have resided in the capital Yerevan and different villages and towns of Armenia.
Last night, at 01:30, on the Stepanakert-Goris road, near Shushi the Azerbaijanis threw stones at the car transporting the bodies of the killed servicemen, breaking the windows.— Artsakh / Karabakh Human Rights Ombudsman (@ArtsakhOmbuds) March 29, 2021
This is the 2nd case over the passed week when #Azerbaijan grossly violates the trilateral statement. pic.twitter.com/QoyV5y6xcO
On the flip side, thousands of Armenians have lost their sons, husbands, and brothers in the battles of the 44-day war.
Armenians across the world have always prided themselves in having two countries and one nation. However, the post-war period and the irresponsible behavior of the government have resulted in a growing number of cases of discrimination against Artsakhians.
The hostility growing within the society is a result of ungrounded accusations spread by the government and its leader.
Also A recent case of racism involving a taxi driver that told two Artsakhian women to get out of the car has received lots of public attention. According to the victims, the driver told them to get out of the car and ‘go back to their country’ when he heard them speaking the Artsakhian dialect.
The former Ombudsmen of Artskakh Ruben Melikyan is worried about the growing number of cases of racism. According to Melikyan, while he has witnessed such cases throughout his career, it is vital for the society to be united now more than ever.
Blaming the authorities for the thousands of people left homeless, the former human rights defender is certain that society shouldn’t pay for the mistakes and short-sightedness of the government.
As for now, the taxi driver is fired and the police are investigating the case. Melikyan is certain that it is high time Armenians spoke openly about such internal issues to finally put end to the disuniting hostility that has been left unnoticed and unaddressed for years.
Now that people are disunited as a result of the political processes going on in Armenia, addressing such cases of discrimination and finding ways to solve the internal crisis is essential.
On the background of a growing number of such incidents, the leading ‘My Step’ faction believes that snap elections are a way to achieve public solidarity. However, with months until the elections, the society may become even more polarized – politically and morally.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice …
Only a few months ago prime minister Pashinyan rejected the mere idea of holding special parliamentary elections. Now he is convinced that holding snap elections is the way to solve the political crisis.
Pashinyan who came to power in 2018 through the first-ever snap elections in the history of Armenia seems to be attempting to stay in power by holding snap elections yet again. He is now trying hard to persuade people that snap elections are what they want.
This is exactly what the former journalist did back in 2018 when Armenians, still in the state of euphoria of having rejected the corrupted regimen, didn’t manage to properly evaluate the pros and cons of hastily organized elections.
In 2018, Pashinyan didn’t give people much time to analyze the consequences of the Velvet Revolution and whether he was a leader competent enough to hold the position of the prime minister.
Now, when there have been ongoing rallies against the authorities since capitulation on November 9, 2020, Pashinyan uses snap elections as a means to calm the protests.
Parliament members from the leading ‘My Step’ faction claim that fair and transparent elections will be held. However, never in the history of the third Republic of Armenia were the results of parliamentary elections finalized without the opposition’s appeals.
The history is bound to repeat as the failed government has proven that they are no different from the former authorities. The chances are high that the leading party will use governmental resources to get more votes as it was always the case in the past.
Disappointed by the once legitimate authorities, it seems like people don’t believe in the fairness of the elections organized by Pashinyan and his team.
However, tired after months of political scandals and futile protests, Pashinyan’s plan of holding snap elections appears to have put people at ease at least temporarily.
To hold snap elections in June, Pashinyan should resign in late April. Will the prime minister keep his word or was his Facebook announcement merely a way to buy time using the good old snap elections tactic?