Levon Ter-Petrosian, Armenia’s first president, has called for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian “in the interest of the nation.”
Ter-Petrosian said Pashinian should step down voluntarily, be granted “legal guarantees of immunity” by parliament, and leave the country at least temporarily.
In an article published at the ilur.am news website, the 76-year-old former president said that if these steps were taken, a nonpartisan deputy prime minister should become acting prime minister and remain neutral in organizing snap parliamentary elections.
The opposition has been pushing for Pashinian to resign after the defeat suffered by Armenian forces last year against Azerbaijan in fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. A coalition of opposition parties has been holding anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan and other parts of the country in a bid to force Pashinian to hand over power to an interim government.
Pashinian, whose My Step faction dominates parliament, has refused to step down but has hinted at accepting early parliamentary elections under certain conditions.
Ter-Petrosian, who was president from 1991-98, also said that he agreed with Vazgen Manukian, his 1996 election rival, that it is unacceptable that Pashinian stay as acting prime minister to oversee an electoral process.
Manukian leads the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement and is the coalition’s candidate to become transitional prime minister to oversee fresh elections.
Manukian and the movement have voiced opposition to the prospect of Pashinian organizing the electoral process, claiming that he and his team will heavily rely on administrative resources and will sway the outcome of the election in their favor.
The widespread use of administrative resources could turn all polling stations into “hotbeds of tension,” he said.
“I am convinced that in that case we will witness the most disgraceful elections in the history of Armenia,” Ter-Petrosian said. “And this may spell the end of the Armenian statehood or its prolonged nightmarish existence.”
Pashinian and members of his political team categorically reject opposition claims that they will seek to influence the outcome of the election, insisting that they have a track record as Armenia’s only political team to have organized free and fair elections in 2018.
Ter-Petrosian, who was accused of rigging elections in 1996, believes that Pashinian and his team will try to keep their power at all costs.
“Seeking to avoid responsibility for their humiliating defeat, they are guided not by the interest of strengthening the state, but solely by an overt obsession to maintain their power at all costs,” Ter-Petrosian wrote.