Pashinyan’s Future as Prime Minister Uncertain in Face of Political Crisis

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan presented a roadmap of government activities on November 18 for the next six months with the goal of overcoming the “present state” in Armenia and establishing stability and security. The plan was created in response to the political unrest and mounting calls for his resignation following his signature on a trilateral agreement signaling Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 Artsakh War. 

The agreement, signed on November 9 and brokered by Russia, ended 45 days of military hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and established a timetable by which Armenia must withdraw its armed forces from the regions of Kelbajar, Aghdam and Lachin while surrendering areas captured by Azerbaijan during the course of the war, including Shushi and Hadrut. Russian peacekeeping forces have already been dispatched along the new Line of Contact as per the agreement. 

Pashinyan’s agenda includes the resumption of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process under the OSCE Minsk Group format with an emphasis on the status of Artsakh, the restoration of infrastructure in Artsakh and Armenia, the provision of expansive social guarantees, the reformation of the Armenian Armed Forces and the creation of a system of psychological rehabilitation. “I have already said that I consider myself primarily responsible for the present state. I am also primarily responsible for overcoming the situation and establishing national stability and security,” he wrote. “I emphasize that not only do I have no intention of relinquishing those responsibilities, but I am also fully committed to that work.” 

The disclosure of the deal on November 10 triggered several days of protests in Yerevan. Yet the challenge facing the future of the Pashinyan administration was cemented by a series of controversial statements and Facebook posts by the PM following the announcement of the ceasefire agreement. On the evening of November 15, in a comment perceived as a call for civil war, Pashinyan wrote on his Facebook page, “Today I watched dozens of videos of soldiers from the front line. I was struck by the soldier’s wisdom. Boys, you are right. I am waiting for you in Yerevan. To finally resolve the issue of whiners under the walls.” In response to this comment, four members of parliament as well as two Deputy Ministers from the ruling My Step bloc tendered their resignations.  

The Prime Minister clarified that he was not calling for violence against his political opponents during a livestream the following morning. However, later that day, he was once again mired in scandal when he told Parliament that the war had been inevitable unless Armenia had handed Shushi over to Azerbaijan. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan publicly refuted this claim, asserting that “there has been no question about renouncing the city of Shushi in any stage of the peace process.” Just minutes after this statement, Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, who had been at the helm of diplomatic relations during the war, announced his resignation. Several days later on November 18, former deputy foreign minister Ara Ayvazyan was appointed as his replacement. 

During that same speech, Pashinyan also said, “Shushi was an unfortunate, colorless city. Did we need Shushi? If we needed it, why was it left in that condition?” He said in a Facebook post the next day that he had been lamenting that enough private and public investments had not been devoted in the past decades to Shushi’s development. 

In response to criticisms facing Pashinyan, President Armen Sarkissian called for the PM’s resignation, early parliamentary elections and the creation of a “high quality National Consensus Government” that would rule in the interim period during a speech broadcast this week, effectively distancing himself from the Pashinyan administration in case of a snap election. 

After the announcement of the trilateral agreement, Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Onik Gasparyan asked the parliamentary opposition political parties to wait one week before calling for an end to martial law in order to provide the military leadership an opportunity to explain the security issues undergirding the ceasefire agreement. As promised, he released a statement on Tuesday in which he argued that, presented with a “very bad scenario and a tragedy,” the military “chose the very bad.” “Yet the realization that as a result of that decision we succeeded in keeping most of Artsakh and defending the primary military potential of the Armenian Armed Forces says that we do not have a right to despair. We must unite, recover quickly and prepare to continue the fight,” he wrote. 

Nonetheless the Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia parliamentary factions have been leading calls to lift the currently imposed martial law and remove Pashinyan from power through a vote of no confidence. These two opposition parties have declared that they will boycott parliamentary sessions until a motion of no confidence is placed on the agenda. “Only one issue should be discussed in this hall: the end of martial law, the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan, new leadership and new negotiations,” said MP Naira Zohrabyan during a National Assembly session. 

Protesters of 17 opposition parties march in Yerevan, demanding PM Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation after signing agreement with the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan ending the Artsakh War (Photo: ARF Armenia)

On November 18, simultaneous rallies in support of and in opposition to the Prime Minister were held in Yerevan. “We have no goal or desire to rise to power,” spokesperson of the Republican Party Eduard Sharmanazov emphasized during the opposition rally. “The salvation of the homeland must begin with the removal of this landlord and traitor.” The rally in support of the PM, which his administration claims it did not organize, was largely attended by members of the military. “If [his detractors] found themselves in Karabakh for one minute, they would understand that if now we unfortunately have 2,000 casualties, if that agreement was not signed, we would have 15,000 casualties,” one soldier in attendance told Radio Liberty.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a journalist based in Los Angeles, California. She has written for the Daily Californian, Hetq and the Armenian Weekly, covering topics ranging from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Armenia to the Armenian feminist movement on Instagram. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Armenian Studies, and applies her human rights expertise to uncover silenced narratives. When she is not on the hunt for a story, Lillian enjoys writing poetry and attending quarantine "Zoom-ba" classes.

12 Comments

  1. Even before 2018 Azerbaijan was arming itself with new weapons funded by selling its energy resources. When the western elites backed coup in 2018 succeeded in Armenia I knew the next war with Azerbaijan would not go well for Armenia – especially as Pashinyan proceeded to replace military and intelligence officers with western backed flunkies. That Azerbaijan was preparing to attack was obvious to observers in NK but they couldn’t get officials in Armenia to listen or care. Even worse, Putin has gone public on offering peacekeepers early on but Pashinyan turned it down. Now in Armenia there is complaining that the West didn’t come to their aid or protection. They thought they had powerful allies in the West but it turned out to be an illusion. Will the diaspora in the US be able to critique its failure? I doubt it – just like Pashinyan and his supporters are blaming anyone but themselves and if not removed from power will take Armenia to ruin.

    • These energy resources you mention (as does everyone else), they are not infinite you know. With the crude oil prices hovering around $40 a barrel for a long time now, their profits must be quite slim.

  2. Pathological liar whose entire tenure has been mired with saying outrageous things and weaseling his way out afterwards. He is incapable of anything except inciting hatred among people. JUST GO. I hope you will rot in jail, along with your obnoxious posse of enablers.

  3. Pashinyan is a treasoner and a criminal. He must step down. When I was posting doubts about him 2 years ago this site moderator would not publish them.

  4. I think the supporters of Pashinyan are correct. Our losses would have been significantly higher if war was not stopped upon fall of Sushi and the rest of Artsakh would been conquered by Azerbaijan. I believe Pashinyan should continue his term.

    • You think? You think. Numerous people who were inside the situation who KNOW, including Putin, have publicly said it was possible to stop the war sooner with fewer concessions. Pashinian refused. You think because that’s what you want to think.

  5. I don’t understand a Prime minister that does not announce this tragedy on television, but announces it on Facebook. If he did not know the military capabilities of our enemies, he should have. If he was waiting for the day that Azerbaijan would declare that Armenia can keep all the 1994 territories, then he is a dreamer. If he thought Russia would allow the West to adopt Armenia, he was badly mistaken.

  6. It seemed to me that Pashinyan didn’t use the full capability of the Armenian military. He was asking the supposed “ally” Russia what they would do in case the war spilled onto Armenia proper. In the middle of the war hes is asking. Just unbelievable. He seems neither militarily or politically Savvy. He needs to go. Also 17 factions for a nation of 3 million is ridiculous. The enemies do not need to divide and conquer us. We are already self divided.

    THIS FROM FROM HETQ NEWS: Former Artsakh Minister of Defense and former Chief of the General Staff of the RA Armed Forces, Colonel-General Movses Hakobyan today stated that the main reasons for Armenia’s defeat in the recent Artsakh war were inadequate leadership, ignorance, and lack of the mastery of the art of war.

    Yesterday, Hakobyan resigned from the post of Head of the Military Control Service of the Armenian Ministry of Defense.

    Hakobyan, at a Yerevan press conference today, said that the army’s troubles began in the summer of 2018 when he was replaced by Artak Davtyan as Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces. This is after Nikol Pashinyan assumed the post of Armenia’s Prime Minister.

    Hakobyan said that Davtyan was the “most unprepared” general for the job.

    The former official said the General Staff became top heavy at the expensive of tactical units on the ground.

    Hakobyan also blamed the PM Pashinyan and the Minister of Defense for the shortage of manpower during the recent war.

    “Our mobilization did not take place. The head of the country is responsible for it, along with the Minister of Defense, the Military Commissariat and the Minister of Territorial Administration, not the Chief of Staff. As of September 30, the plan to replenish the Artsakh Army was implemented by 78%, and that of Armenia by 52%. It should have been done within 40 hours, but it remained the same on the fifth day of the war,” said Hakobyan.

    Hakobyan accused Pashinyan of halting the army’s recruitment process in favor of sending volunteers to the front line.

    He said the volunteers were ill-equipped and encountered bureaucratic red tape upon arrival in Artsakh.

    Hakobyan said there were either no retreats or very few in those areas manned by Artsakh Defense Army troops․

    Hakobyan said that by the fifth day of the war some 1,500 Armenian soldiers and volunteers in Artsakh, who had returned from the front line because they weren’t prepared, were isolated and not allowed to return to Armenia and thus ignite panic.

  7. We don’t understand the politics, but a peace deal was signed, and unexpectedly, a majority of the region that belonged to Armenia has now been given away.

    The pain among the Armenian community is palpable. As our hearts collectively break, can’t tolerate this idiot as PM.

  8. “Shushi was an unfortunate, colorless city. Did we need Shushi?”. The headline questions Pashinyan’s future as prime minister, while I am questioning Pashinyan’s…future.

    Shushi was given to the Azeris, let this be clear. Some do not realize how difficult it is to capture hilltop Shushi. People should question why Azerbaijan agreed to this agreement in the first place…. after the supposed fall of Shushi it’s easier to take the rest of Artsakh moving north. Why did they stop if they were overpowering and advancing so well?

    Let’s be real, agreements were made months if not years ago and the Zurich protocols from the past were to be imposed on Armenians one way or another. The Armenian military and strategy were so obviously crippled intentionally and ridiculously.

    A war needed to happen to give Azeris whatever was agreed since the people won’t accept it another way. 2 years ago KGB Sargsyan quickly resigned without much of a fight to bring in this scapegoat liberal Pashayan with no military or political background.

    This was all orchestrated and the agreement was even signed on Azerbaijan national patriotic holiday “Flag Day” which is Nov 9th.

    RIP to all the hero soldiers fighting for Armenian lands, will never be forgotten… nor will the traitors.

  9. It is time to save our nation and the only way to do it is for the diaspora en masse to relocate to Armenia. Imagine if 10 million ARMENIANS returned to their homeland! We don’t need democracy there what we need is one patriotic person who loves our land culture ……make that guy the king of Armenia and I will follow him to hell and back! Democracy is a Trojan horse and we need to be self reliant and stop begging the world to help us! Democracy makes it easy for outside powers to hijack our gov!

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