Armenia’s parliament has rejected the candidacy of acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian as the new head of government, in an agreed first step toward holding snap parliamentary elections.
Pashinian resigned on April 25, clearing the way for parliamentary elections to be held, in an effort to defuse a political crisis prompted by the outcome of the country’s war last year with Azerbaijan.
“One lawmaker voted in favor, three against, and 75 lawmakers abstained. Pashinian is not elected as prime minister,” speaker Ararat Mirzoyan announced after the vote on May 3.
A second special parliamentary session is expected to take place on May 10. If Pashinian fails to secure the support of lawmakers for a second time, parliament will be dissolved and President Armen Sarkisian will schedule early elections for next month.
Pashinian has said he plans to continue to fulfill his duties as prime minister until the vote, and plans to take part in the elections.
The move follows recent changes made to the Electoral Code that the opposition has said are aimed at helping Pashinian win.
The changes, worked out by Pashinian’s My Step alliance, revamp parts of the Electoral Code introduced in 2016 by the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), two years before Pashinian was swept into office after leading mass protests against the pro-Russian HHK of former President Serzh Sarkisian.
The amendments will change the country’s electoral system to a fully proportional one.
Up until now, Armenians have voted for parties and alliances as well as individual candidates, whereas the next election will be held only on a party-list basis.
Armenia has been embroiled in a political crisis since Pashinian signed a Russian-brokered cease-fire in November to end the war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinian agreed in March to hold the early vote next month. He has indicated that he favors the date of June 20 for the elections.
Opinion polls show that public confidence in Pashinian’s government has fallen sharply since then, with its approval rating falling from 60 percent to around 30 percent last month.
Pashinian has come under fire since agreeing to a Moscow-brokered deal with Azerbaijan that took effect on November 10, ending six weeks of fierce fighting in and around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh that saw ethnic Armenian forces suffer battlefield defeat.
Under the cease-fire, part of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by Armenians.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the region’s population reject Azerbaijani rule.