Archbishop Bagrat is leading the effort to oust Pashinyan and save Armenia

A lot has happened in Armenia this past week that has shaken to the core the incompetent, inexperienced, defeatist and deceptive Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who should have resigned on Nov. 10, 2020, the day he signed the capitulation agreement with Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan came to power by exploiting the people’s gullibility and their resentment of the former leaders. He claimed that he would bring peace to Armenia, their sons would no longer die in wars, they would live in prosperity with high-paying jobs, there would be no corruption and a plethora of other falsehoods with which he misled the public.

Drunk with his newly-found power, Pashinyan became completely unhinged. He arrogantly announced, while he and his mob of followers surrounded the parliament building in 2018, that either he would become the Prime Minister or Armenia would not have a Prime Minister! This is the pronouncement of a self-declared democratic leader who became a dictator.

During the campaign for the parliamentary elections in 2021, Pashinyan stood on a stage holding a hammer and promised to crush the heads of his political opponents. He also pledged to slam his Armenian rivals to the wall and flatten them on the asphalt. This is his crude understanding of democracy.

Pashinyan told his crowd of followers in 2018 that he would leave his office when the people demand his resignation. Since then, he has ignored all demands for his resignation, clinging to his seat of power. During one of the many demonstrations calling for his resignation, when a journalist asked him if he would keep his word and resign, he pompously replied, “They aren’t people,” implying that he considers only those who support him as “people.”

Even though Pashinyan’s supporters falsely claim that he was elected prime minister, the fact is that he was not, since the prime minister’s post is not an elective position. He was chosen by his parliamentary majority, which is composed of equally incompetent and inexperienced young men and women.

Pashinyan has no tolerance for dissent. If anyone living in Armenia dares to criticize him, the prime minister orders his well-fed police squad to lay the critic on the ground, beat him up and arrest him. His top ally, Alen Simonyan, the chairman of the parliament, spit on the face of an Armenian in the street just because he criticized him. And if a Diaspora Armenian disagrees with Pashinyan, he will not be allowed to enter Armenia after he arrives at the Yerevan airport. Under Pashinyan, Armenia has become a dictatorship, ruled by the whims of one man.

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan leading “Tavush for the Homeland” (Photo: Hoory Minoyan)

Now, along comes Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, the Primate of the Diocese of Tavush, who opposes Pashinyan’s arbitrary decision to turn over four Armenian border villages to Azerbaijan without a referendum and parliamentary approval.

The archbishop has come immediately under vicious attacks by Pashinyan himself and his cronies, including the thousands of fake Facebook followers who are paid to defame anyone who dares to criticize the prime minister.

Pashinyan called the archbishop and his supporters “drug lords” and “foreign agents sent from overseas” without a shred of evidence. It is very ugly when the head of a government uses street language to denigrate his political opponents. Anyone who dares to criticize Pashinyan is immediately labeled “a Kremlin agent” who is paid thousands of dollars to “undermine the country.” Why should anyone get paid to undermine Armenia when Pashinyan is already undermining the country all by himself?

In a strange turn of events, the archbishop has copied the same tactic Pashinyan used to come to power by marching from Gyumri to Yerevan in 2018. Thus Srpazan is giving Pashinyan a dose of his own medicine. The only difference is that Pashinyan violated many laws to come to power by smashing the doors of the Armenian radio station’s headquarters, surrounding a courthouse with his followers to prevent the judges from entering the building and blocking the entrances to the parliament.

The archbishop has advantages and disadvantages. Srpazan is a clergyman whose weapons are truth and morality. He preaches peace, love and non-violence. All attempts by various opposition groups to topple Pashinyan by street protests in the past six years have failed. The archbishop is the only person who has gained the trust of a large number of Armenians who eagerly joined his march from Tavush to Yerevan. Tens of thousands of Armenians flooded the city’s main square to listen to his message.

When Srpazan arrived in Yerevan on May 9, he announced that he was giving Pashinyan one hour to resign. When the hour passed and there was no resignation, the archbishop did not want to go to the next step of urging his followers to storm the building and oust the prime minister. Instead, Srpazan announced a series of civil disobedience acts throughout the country.

Srpazan is now consulting with various opposition leaders to discuss the next steps. If and when Pashinyan resigns or is impeached, both unlikely scenarios, the archbishop said that a transition government will be formed, which will later hold elections for parliament to choose a new prime minister. It remains to be seen if Srpazan’s peaceful plans will succeed to oust Pashinyan.

The best reason for getting rid of Pashinyan is that the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey have eagerly praised Pashinyan for his repeated and endless concessions. Prominent Azeri analyst Ali Hajizade even suggested the possibility of sending Azeri and Turkish troops to Yerevan to support Pashinyan’s government!

All patriotic Armenians, putting aside their internal differences, should form a coalition to establish a transitional government that will hold the next elections. Public pressure must be exerted on Pashinyan to resign as soon as possible before the country ceases to exist due to attacks by internal and external enemies. This may be the last chance to save Armenia.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

5 Comments

  1. A peace settlement is in Armenia interest. Armenia had been obsinate and squandered various peace settlement offers which would have given Armenia a better deal than what it is going to have to accept, a case of maximalism and loosing the lot in consequence. However any nation making incremental concessions under the threat of war is being bamboozled and a leader in such circumstances is no leader but a looser. Agreeing to return the Soviet era Azeri enclaves to Azerbaijan should only be done as part of a formal peace agreement otherwise the next will be Azerbaijan demanding state control of a corridor across southern Armenia under the threat of war of course! Whilst the previous prime ministers were schlerototic and the nation in 2018 was rather languid and a change of government was probably needed. Pashinyan is clearly a Soros linked agitator and shows the intolerance of committed liberals. His election in 2021 which appears to have been essentially fair. Should be borne in mind. He as prime minister of Armenia wasn’t the executive of Arktash although Armenia was the protector and guarantor of it and Armenia failed to provide effective support leaving Arktash to its fate echoing the behaviour of Serbia regarding the Bosnian Serbs and Croatian Serbs in the 1990s. However a fact remains moot it was clear that Azerbaijan had upgraded it’s military considerably and Armenia had fallen behind in the arms race this might have been hard to publicly acknowledge at the time along with the fact that the previous government had essentially lost the favour of the people and despite the debacle in 2020 there wasn’t a desire to reinstate them as their conduct was part of the reason for the issues. Although a conjecture at the time the insinuation by the pro Russian Armenians and pro Putin Russians that the defeat was due to distancing from Russia, the losses Russia has endured from it’s invasion of Ukraine two days after signing a friendship agreement with Azerbaijan has made this less convincing in the light of subsequent events. Also relevant is the issue of alliance in the 1990s the west in its honeymoon period with Russia wasn’t too bothered that Armenia was closely linked to Russia however as the relationship deteriorated this becomes more of an issue whilst it’s something Armenia didn’t instigate it like everywhere else is subject to such consequences. Also Armenia membership of the CTSO by being a member it limited what weapons Armenia could purchase from NATO countries whilst Azerbaijan had no such encumbrances. Hence whilst the 1994 line of control was stable there was little reason to question this however upon the defeat in 2020 where Russia refused support and the Turkic countries members of CTSO praised non member Azerbaijan clearly showed that Armenia wasn’t amongst friends in such an alliance.. Ousting Pashinyan doesn’t mean returning to the policies of the previous government either.

    • Just because Armenians lost the 2020 Karabakh War, then lost Artsakh in 2023, doesn’t mean that the proposed “peace settlements (prior to 2020) were a bed of roses. As I recall, Azerbaijan repeatedly sabotaged OSCE peace proposals and normalization endeavors. The simple fact is that fascistic Azerbaijan has genocidal intentions against the Armenian People.

      Do you really think that Azerbaijan would’ve stopped attacking Artsakh, after Armenian ceded vast areas of landed to appease them? Give me a break! What would’ve happened, is what’s happening now: Artsakh’s weakened strategic position would become more vulnerable to further aggression, and the areas ceded away stripped of Armenian Heritage Sites. It’s happening that way, but Azerbaijan’s intentions against Armenians have been genocidal since the 1980s, and prior to that too.

      Typically, the proposed peace proposals involved gifting away large areas of Artsakh’s strategic positions, and we now know what has been happening, since Armenians forcibly lost those strategically more defendable positions; throughout 2023, Artsakh besieged & starved, and Artsakh was lost and ethnically cleansed, in September, 2023. Since 2021, Armenia itself invaded by Azerbaijan.

    • By not accepting a compromise in the 1990s and dragging it on as Azerbaijan grew in strength was a disaster and tragic squandering of the efforts. The Tamil Tigers were similar in failure to compromise and loosing it all. Unita in Angola and the Arabs in 1947 partition plan. If there was a peace agreement and exchange of ambassadors further aggressive would have been less likely. Maximilism rarely serves well. Also the situation with Turkey and Azerbaijan has been a boon to Russia who although not responsible for the racial contention has been able to capitalise on it with its cavalier
      treatment of Armenia. It’s likely that as it became stronger Azerbaijan became more ambitious and assertive. Also neither came under international pressure to achieve a settlement hence it dragging on so long. Quite simply Russia has never been to Armenia what the USA is to Israel but tragically due to their desperation Armenia has had to be grateful for their sparse support. Nowadays Russia has it’s own war in Ukraine to attend to, and judges Azerbaijan and Turkey as more important to its interests than Armenia.

  2. hello Laurence Kueffer

    your assessments of the Armenia’s and Artsakh’s situations with Azerbaijan as given above are correct and on the spot. You are showing to be proud Armenian and of Swiss parentage then you must have ENDURANCE, TIME MANAGEMENT AND FINANCIAL SKILLS which makes you a good diplomat and career expert specially for the Armenia’s region and affairs.

  3. A compromise is hardly expected to be a bed of roses. Maximilist policies gulled by the alliance with Russia led to a failure to implement a settlement when in a strong position in the 1990s. As result of resting on laurels and misplaced confidence in Russia, Armenia squandered it’s advantage and hence the current situation. In addition Russia now entangled in Ukraine can be less supportive indeed in Syria it’s loyal ally Russia has had to withdraw assets to support it’s Ukraine endeavour. What ought to be beyond doubt is the prevarication and reliance on Russia led to this catasophe and thus hard and difficult questions about national policy are going to have to be addressed in effect a reality check. In recent years Azerbaijan realising that it had the advantage became more ambitious and less willing to seek a compromise as Armenia position became more obviously fragile. With a formal settlement it will become much more difficult for Azerbaijan to agress further prevarication which seems to Yerevan watchword is only going to result in an evermore onerous settlement in the future. The CTSO has as it’s turned out only had the effect of limiting what support Armenia could receive from sympathetic NATO countries and with Russia courting of Azerbaijan and Turkey had left Armenia with the worst of both worlds also the CTSO is ailing Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are distancing themselves from Russia the main patron whilst NATO has gained Finland and Sweden at the same time.

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