‘My Step’ retreats from promise of early elections

National Assembly President Ararat Mirzoyan, NA Vice Speaker and My Step member Lena Nazaryan and My Step faction head Lilit Makunts, February 9, 2021

The ruling My Step faction of the National Assembly announced this week its intention not to pursue early parliamentary elections, retreating from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s stated commitment to holding snap elections in 2021.

On February 7, the My Step party claimed that there is no demand for early elections among the general public. The party also noted that the PM’s proposal to hold early elections had not been met with a positive reaction from the parliamentary opposition. Instead, the party asserted that it would continue to work to implement the PM’s roadmap, a six-month agenda of political activities presented on November 18 to establish security and stability in the aftermath of the 2020 Artsakh War. 

Opposition parties criticized the announcement, declaring that their support for early elections following the resignation of the PM and his administration has been steadfast since the end of the war. Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Council of Armenia Chairman and coordinator of the Homeland Salvation Movement Ishkhan Saghatelyan expressed that there are three reasons behind the refusal to hold early elections. The first is that the PM recognizes that he would not win reelection. The second is that members of his party, whom he claims received their positions by riding into government on his coattails, feel the danger of losing their parliamentary mandate. The third is that the PM perceives that the opposition movement has died down. 

“Not only did none of the opposition parties or parliamentary forces oppose early elections, but they also presented their demand and necessity, while setting forth a clear roadmap to their realization (removal, formation of interim government, snap elections),” stated Saghatelyan, announcing that the next Homeland Salvation Movement rally would take place on February 20. 

Bright Armenia Party leader Edmon Marukyan called the announcement a “logical continuation of the administration’s manipulation,” stating that the ruling party is attempting to throw the ball into the opposition’s court. “In reality the ball has been in their court since November 10,” he asserted. “There is a public demand for their removal. That demand remains in effect.” 

An opposition coalition of 17 political parties, including the ARF, the Republican Party and the Prosperous Armenia Party, was formed after the signature of the November 9 ceasefire agreement under the banner of the Homeland Salvation Movement to demand the removal of the PM and his administration. The movement has been calling for the creation of an interim government of national unity, led by Vazgen Manukyan, that would guide the country through the postwar crisis and organize snap elections. 

PM Pashinyan had previously invited consultations with parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces on holding snap elections. However, the opposition rejected this call, demanding his immediate resignation prior to any election. 

On January 20, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan shared that My Step had presented a memorandum to the Bright Armenia and Prosperous Armenia parties in which each would agree not to field prime ministerial candidates in case of the PM’s resignation. The opposition also refused this measure. 

My Step holds a majority of 83 seats of 132 within the National Assembly. The Prosperous Armenia Party holds 24 seats, and the Bright Armenia Party holds 17. No other party within the opposition movement holds parliamentary seats. According to Article 149 of the Constitution, in case of the prime minister’s resignation, the National Assembly has two chances to elect a new candidate within seven days through a parliamentary majority. If a candidate is not elected, parliament is dissolved, and an election is called. 

My Step’s announcement not to hold snap elections notably came days after former president Robert Kocharyan declared his intention to participate in elections for the position of prime minister.

Meanwhile the construction of homes for families from the Syunik province who lost their houses under the terms of the ceasefire agreement has begun. After visiting the communities of Vorotan and Shournoukh, Avinyan shared that each member of these families would receive a lump sum payment of 300,000 drams, as well as 68,000 drams per month for at least six months prior to the construction of their new homes, in order to compensate them for their losses. 

A number of houses belonging to residents of border communities, including 12 homes in the village of Shournoukh, came under Azerbaijani control as a result of the border demarcation process. Under the ceasefire agreement, the regions of Zangelan and Kubatli were returned to Azerbaijan, creating a new border with Syunik. The team leading the demarcation process has been using GPS systems and geolocation to revive Soviet-era international boundaries, which do not reflect the realities of the expansion of villages beyond the border during the past three decades. 

Azerbaijani Armed Forces (flags and signs) on the roads connecting the communities of the Syunik region of the Republic of Armenia (Photo: Armenia Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan)

The construction of 12 homes with full amenities in Shournoukh began on February 5. Cattle barns are also being built nearby in order to promote agriculture. Residents of border villages employed land beyond the border as pasture prior to the war. 

Finally, five Armenian prisoners returned to Yerevan on Tuesday in the course of another prisoner exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Commander of the Russian peacekeeping continent in Artsakh, Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov, confirmed that one Azerbaijani prisoner was also transferred to Baku by Russian military aircraft. 

In all, 10 of the 63 Armenian prisoners who were captured on December 11 following an attack by the Azerbaijani armed forces on the Hin Tagher and Khtsabert communities in the southern Hadrut district of Artsakh have returned home. The Azerbaijani government labels these hostages terrorists rather than prisoners of war, alleging that the attacks staged by the Azerbaijani military a month after the ceasefire agreement constituted an anti-terror operation. 

The day before the latest prisoner exchange, Russian Ambassador to Armenia Sergey Kopyrkin stated that the issue of Armenian POWs is one of the highest priorities that is being resolved within the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. “I am not exaggerating when I say that this is really one of the priority issues that our president, our foreign minister, and our defense minister are personally dealing with,” he told reporters. 

According to human rights attorney Siranush Sahakyan, as many as 223 Armenian captives might remain in Azerbaijan, most of whom were captured after November 9. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies and Armenian Language and Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a human rights journalist and feminist poet. Her first poetry collection, Journey to Tatev, will be published with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

19 Comments

  1. Thank you Lillian for this substantive update. This is a most unfortunate move by the My Step faction. The middle ground ignoring calls for his resignation and the opposition’s position of immediate resignation …..was to hold snap elections in order to allow the people decide which parties should be entrusted with power. This announcement puts us back to polarized options. It will be perceived as a power retention move. The opposition has not presented great option especially hearing that R. Kocharian wants to run……..but snap elections is still a balanced fair approach. Power can motivate unfortunate responses.

  2. My, my. This looks so anti-western, and super Putin-like.

    I thought Pahinyan and his vochkhars were mimicking everything “western”.

    • Going “Putin bad” in every post is just sad. I guess if you’re representative of a population that would blame everybody but yourself, that not only explains the current situation but also a lot of history. What does Putin owe you again? What do you owe Russia, given that she is the only thing standing between a Turkish flag raised about the Irevan vilayet? Apparently you think a lot of repetitive pointless comments is what you think you owe her. Well, the moment you find someone else who is looking to basically backstop your provincial statehood, let me know. In the meantime, consider this: don’t bite the hand that feeds you and especially don’t bite the hand that guarantees you are not fed to someone’s dogs.

    • No, it is very much western. Look at what happened in Washington on January 6th this year. People like you are responsible for putting Pashinyan in office.

    • “What does Putin owe you again?”

      Mafia boss dictator Putin, as a representative of Russia, owes the Armenian people *A LOT*. Except being a primitive lowly despot and totalitarian ingrate,

      First, Russia owes Armenia an apology. An apology for Soviet Russia financing and arming Turks for invading Armenia and killing Armenians AGAIN right after committing the Genocide.

      Next, Russia owes Armenia for the invaluable aid in winning WWII for them, without which Russia would never have become anywhere near the power that it was and is today. Without Armenia, Russia would NEVER have reached Germany. And if we investigate the ramifications of that, Russia would be far behind the west in any weapons developments and advancements.

      And what about Armenia’s post-WWII contributions to Russia? Nuclear scientists, jet plane tech, tech production etc? Has Russia EVER acknowledged any of it? No, an ungrateful people never would acknowledge such things, because that’s what makes them a bunch of ungrateful people.

      Oh and wait, where are all those Azeri scientists and technology again who contributed to Russia’s rise? NOWHERE! Yeah that’s right, that’s how apparatchik propaganda works – “what does Russia owe Armenia” – but never – “what does Russia owe Azerbaijan”.

      And I’m tired of repeating this over and over again about your ex post facto argument of “without Russia Turks would take over” BS. Yes, without Russia Turks wouldn’t have taken western Armenia to begin with either. Without Russia Azerbaijan wouldn’t have taken all those checkered Armenian territories either. Without Russia the Aliyev dynasty wouldn’t have come about either. And let’s say we don’t have Russia and Turks come in and take over. Would a world power like Russia allow NATO at its doorstep? Your arguments are really tired and boring already.

    • Yes, exactly – Armenia won WWII for Russia, absolutely. This is exactly the type of self-centered nonsense that the Turks are rightly accusing us of. So disheartening to see the reason for the literal century-long failure of a people confidently comment here. I just hope you’re another imposter but to anyone who actually believes this: yes, you were the reason Russia won WWII, good job and without then you would go on to conquer all of Western Armenia by yourself and they’re not your security guarantor but another enemy but soon your khorovats and outsourcing IT skills will be too powerful for anyone to withstand and you’ll take over. Like, at what point do you think you’ve lost and been humiliated collectively enough to start thinking that at least part of the reason may be your lack of an objective assessment of the wider situation?

    • It’s sad that you have to resort to distorting my comments to fit your own narrative, you are showing a lot of desperation for the lack of your reasoning ability and reading comprehension. Nowhere did I ever say “Armenia won WWII for Russia”. I use accepted historical facts to make an interpretation. What do you use besides empty Kremlin propaganda “history” straight out of RT? I clearly stated if not for Armenia, Russia would not be as successful in WWII as it was. Armenia wasn’t at war with anybody, Russia forced them, three to four hundred thousand Armenians to enter the war on its behalf and losing a large number of men. Bagramyan was a key player in taking Konigsberg. Next the Armenian army was the first army to breach Berlin’s defenses. And I don’t care what any Kremlin propagandist thinks this means, to me this means Russia would never have taken “East Germany” in time and getting all those German scientists and sending them to Russia to develop all the next generation weaponry, exactly as the USA did.

      Side note to the Kremlin historians: if not for the USA *FEEDING* Russia during WWII, Russia would have starved out of WWII.

      And yes, Russia was the one that made it possible for Turkey to wage a “war of independence” on Armenia by supplying all their weapons, money and food right after Turkey lost WWI thereby preventing a real Armenia from materiializing. Even the Kremlin admits this. How many Armenians died as a result of Russia’s actions? Your other friends here show up from time to time claiming it was not Russia that did it but the “Zionists”. Ah yes, OK, and Russia follows that exact same policy for an entire century up until the last Artsakh war. Russia is a supporter of Turks and Azeris and a subjugator and oppressor of Armenia. And yes, I fully admit Armenia “has no choice” but to be a member of Russia’s Poverty Club. That goes with the territory of being oppressed and subjugated.

    • Sure, buddy. Absolutely. I think it’s pretty clear what you wrote and what I’m supposedly distorting. Since you like historical hypotheticals so much, riddle me this: what happens to a hypothetical Armenia in 1939 without the Soviet Union? If your answer is anythjng but 1915 part 2, you are wrong.

      It’s obvious you’ve been drinking the yankee kool aid a bit too much, otherwise you would probably not be dividing the world in good and bad the way you do, but then again maybe you have an agenda and aren’t posting the opinion if a misguided individual at all. Otherwise, how could you argue all this and ignore what the US did most recently – I mean, maybe you enjoyed Trump’s shoutout during one of his rallies so much that you decided that was enough whereas the mafioso Putin stopping the war (and let’s even argue that it was his doing etc.) saved what little was left? But how can that be? I thought if left alone we’d conquer all? Is it because we got “bones and the Turks got juicy steaks” (who talks/writes like that?) – whatever it may be, your acknowledgment that there is no choice or option is all you needed to write. The rest are the ramblings of someone who is so obviously biased he should refrain from sharing his slightly comical views. The fact that you are screaming Kremlin propogandist and the slightest pushback shows that you are a true scholar of Russiagate, well done.

      If this is the level to which the American dumbification machine has brought the average Armenian, then please just do that melting pot thing. Cheers (from the not very Russian UK)

    • For over 2 hundred years an Armenia has been existing only because of the Russian factor in the South Caucasus. Ask yourselves: Where would Armenia be today if the Russian Empire did not force Turks and Persians out of the South Caucasus and occupied it in 1813? Where would Armenia be today if Moscow did not takeover Armenia in 1921? Where would Armenia be today if Stalin and Mikoyan did not create a Soviet Armenian republic in 1936? Where would Armenia be today if the Soviet army did not win the war against Nazi Germany? Where would Armenia be today if Moscow had not been providing it with affordable (and at times free) weapons, low cost energy (oil, gas and nuclear fuel), trade, tourism, investments and of course protection against Turkey for the past 30 years?

      This is the bottom line: Armenian “independence” from Russia is by-default Armenian dependence on Turkey. Any Armenian that is anti-Russia is first and foremost anti-Armenian. Any Armenian this anti-Russia has to be either an agent for the West or Turkey or simply a fool. No other explanation.

    • You haven’t said anything to disprove what I stated, and also to make me change my mind about Russia. What “would have happened” in 1939 is also irrelevant when we have the fact that the Russians armed the Turks in 1920 to attack Armenia and kill Armenians based on Russia’s “brilliant” plan to get Turkey to join the Poverty Club called the “Soviet Union”.

      The USA only started supporting Turkey after WWII based on Russia’s intent to force the world around it into it’s Poverty Club. The Russians were stupid enough to kill off their best in 1917 and destroy their Christian culture. What we see now is the result of it. So much that even the primitive Turks outsmarted them a century ago, and continue to do so.

      I have no problem “admitting” (as if that was such a revelation) that Armenia is STUCK with and forced into an idiotic undesirable relationship with “Mother Russia”. The first step in solving that problem is to acknowledge it. And that is what my message is. The delusional among us is not the ones that think like me, but rather the ones that get owned by Russian lunacy and keep coming back for more. Have some self respect at least, all of you playing the “Mother Russia” flute.

    • Hilarious, our flag saluting… friend, Zartir, talking about self-respect. All I read is poverty club this poverty club that, it’s all so tiring. Ok buddy, Russia bad – we get it. Maybe trying to be less inflammatory and more objective would lend at least some weight to your “points” (aside from poverty club porverty club). But no, they’re pure evil etc. while the USA are the shining beacon of this world and I’m sure glad you’re there. Good thing we have that settled.

  3. It appears the day of reckoning for Pashinyan won’t come. Another promise broken. When will Armenians shed themselves from the corrupt and incompetent ruling class and finally take the necessary steps to lead the country forward?

    There has to be accountability for the disastrous Artsakh War. There has to be accountability for the cryonism, gross negligence, and nepotism. Haven’t Armenians suffered enough?

    • When will Turks stop murdering Armenians and stealing their lands? This last war was a Turkish planned and executed drone war. When will Turks understand their homeland is the Asian foothills? When will they come to terms with the reality of raping and murdering 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923, while still squatting on 7 eastern historical Armenian districts? When will Turks stop blaming Armenians for their own death and losses?

  4. That further confirms that the entire cabinet is being sponsored from elsewhere-globalists- who put it there under the guise of “people” decision. This entire cabinet is there to destroy Armenia.

  5. It looks like we have not learnt the lesson yet despite the catastrophic results of the recent war. The knife has reached the bone and we are still infighting, busy name calling and trying to strengthen our party interest instead of seeing the bigger picture . The enemy is loughing meanwhile, pulling us to pieces and grabbing more teritory. It is about time we put party politics aside and formed a government of national unity, like other nations in a similar situation have done, and put our national interest first. Lets repair the damage to our land and armed forces and persue goals that will protect our country from enemies. We also need to persue the release of our POWs. Can not see our Western friends taking the Azeris to court for recent war crimes. Our Western diaspora should take this on soon while memories are fresh.

    • let’s go back to 1988-1991 Azerbaijan where Armenians were killed and driven out of their homes. USA government gave Azerbaijani Armenians refugee status. Have any Armenian officials done anything to punish Azerbaijan for its crimes of genocide against these Armenians from Azerbaijan? Absolutely nothing has been done. When asked Armenian officials and diaspora said they have to have a recognition of 1915 genocide. So we have people who were killed, raped, beaten and we chose to do nothing because we want the recognition of 1915 genocide? This is ridiculous. Armenians have unfortunately lost their perspective.

  6. Why do you always report what the government says and does? As if the government has any credibility, lying through their teeth all the time. Why don’t you report on what regular people think and do?

  7. From my perspective, not pursuing early parliamentary elections is the wrong decision for Armenia. Day after day, we lose parts of our homeland from Syunik. Several days ago, social media spread a document that was intentionally hidden from people. Are we sure that there is no more that kind of documents? I have no sympathy towards the Homeland salvation Movement and especially Ishkhan Saghatelyan, but I cannot disagree with him in his points. The prime minister understands that his party and he would hardly get to the National Assembly in case of elections, and he afraid of vendetta, which was his job in the past three years. It is very interesting that after Kcharan announced his return to politics, the My Step fraction and especially Pashinyan changed their minds. Are they afraid because they know that Kocharyan has more supporters and power, or they have something else to do with Armenia. I think that the government uses our prisoners’ fact to their benefit. There will be no significant movement until our soldiers’ bodies are buried and the prisoners return home. In this challenging moment for our country, I only see Kocharyan, a friend of Putin who has many connections, and I believe he can make it. Still, before it, we should understand that our prime minister is very dangerous for our country, and if he stays, there would be no Armenia after several years or maybe months.

  8. The sooner the incompetent PM loser liar is removed, the better. His time is up. Also the 17 political factions is ridiculous. Kocharyan running for office? My God! So more theft and Armenian emigration under the guise of indoctrinating Russian hegemony. NO THANKS. Young new thinking, uniting leadership, that doesn’t steal and rob his own fellow Armenians, that truly advances the nation, is the ONLY answer.

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