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Amid political unrest, Armenia's PM says he's ready for snap elections

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Monday that he was ready to hold early elections as protesters broke into the government building to demand his resignation.

Political tensions in Armenia have been heightened as supporters of the embattled prime minister and the opposition held massive rival rallies at separate sites in the capital

“If the parliamentary opposition agrees with early elections, we will also agree,” Pachinyan told some 10,000 supporters gathered at Republic Square.

“Let’s go to elections to see who the people are calling to resign,” he said. “Only the people can decide who will stay in power.”

An opposition group forced their way into the government building in central Yerevan on Monday, chanting slogans, but left shortly after without any violence.

Pashinyan has faced opposition demands to resign since he signed a peace deal in November that ended six weeks of intense fighting with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The Russia-brokered agreement saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had long been held by Armenian forces.

The trigger for recent events was comments made by Pashinyan about the alleged ineffectiveness of the Iskander missile system.

That led to the military’s General Staff calling for the PM to resign, stating “the prime minister and the government are no longer able to make reasonable decisions”.

Pashinyan responded last week by dismissing the military’s chief, Col. Gen. Onik Gasparyan.

The dismissal is yet to be approved by the nation’s largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkissian, who sent it back to the prime minister, saying that the move was unconstitutional.

Pashinyan has accused military officers of attempting a coup, telling supporters at a rally last week that the army’s attempts to “involve it in political processes are unacceptable.”

Pashinyan, a former journalist, came to power after leading massive street protests in 2018 that ousted his predecessor and still enjoys broad support in Armenia despite recent opposition.

The prime minister defended the peace deal as a painful but necessary move to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The fighting with Azerbaijan that erupted in late September and lasted 44 days has left more than 6,000 people dead on both sides.

Reference