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Armenian opposition leader calls for uprising but ‘without violence’

28 January 2021

Vazgen Manukyan, the candidate for Prime Minister representing a collection of 16 opposition parties, called for a ‘riot’ if Nikol Pashinyan doesn’t resign. Manukyan has rejected calls for an early election. 

‘We want to oust Pashinyan; if the constitutional way does not work, we must start a riot, and that is the natural right of the people,’ opposition leader Vazgen Manukyan said during a recent visit to Armenia's Ararat province. He added that by ‘riot’ he meant ‘capturing buildings, seizing power by force, but without violence՛. 

On 28 January, a group of opposition protesters, led by Manukyan and supported by the former ruling Republican party and their once coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), as well as a dozen or so small political parties, started a demonstration in Yerevan on January 28, demanding, yet again, for Pashinyan to resign. 

In late December, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan stated that he was ready to hold consultations regarding snap parliamentary elections in 2021. Armenia’s opposition parties rejected the move and continued to call for his immediate resignation. 

[Read more on OC Media: Armenian Prime Minister calls for new elections in 2021]

Addressing the parliament on 21 January Pashinyan stated that the opposition ‘admits defeat’ by rejecting his offer of early elections. ‘It is not so logical for the ruling party to hold snap parliamentary elections for itself’, Pashinyan said, stressing that the opposition’s rejection of elections means that, at present, they do not have the support of the public.

Instead of elections, Armenia’s opposition — split between supporters of Vazgen Manukyan, and Bright Armenia Party head Edmon Marukyan — has called for an interim government that would be in power no longer than one year, and would organise new elections. 

Unlike Manukyan, Bright Armenia’s Edmon Marukyan and the Bright Armenia Party have, for the moment, rejected actions in the street as a path to power.  ‘Peaceful rallies are a fundamental human right, but ‘Bright Armenia’ seeks to rule out demonstrations that could lead to violence or breach of the rights of others,’ Ani Samsonyan, a Bright Armenia MP told OC Media.

Samsonyan said that if Pashinyan does not want to resign, the only legal mechanism left would be snap elections. As for a ‘riot’ to remove the Prime Minister, Samsonyan said that ‘violence is unacceptable’ and that she expected the police to maintain public order.

‘Unpopular and discredited’

‘Behind the rhetoric of both the government and the opposition, it is clear that a new, early election is the only way to resolve the country’s lingering political crisis’, Richard Giragosian, an analyst and the Director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC) told OC Media.

‘The opposition’s stubborn reliance on outdated tactics and maximalist demands for the resignation of the democratically elected government’, he said. ‘Are impractical and implausible.’ 

Giragosian said he believes that even despite a fall in popularity due to Armenia’s loss in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the ruling party is still likely to win a new election, securing a lessened, but ‘still working majority’. Meanwhile, the opposition will flounder ‘given their lack of popular standing and their failure to articulate any alternative policies’ as well as their association ‘with the corrupt former government’. 

Estimates of some of the largest of the recent protests count less than 10 thousand participants — significantly fewer than the over 100,000 that filled Yerevan’s Republic Square during the 2018 revolution.

 

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