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Further demonstrations by the opposition and supporters of the Prime Minister are scheduled for Monday in Armenia, amid a serious political crisis whose outcome still seems uncertain.
Renewed tensions in Armenia. Supporters of the Prime Minister and those of the opposition were again expected in the street on Monday 1er March, in a country plunged into a serious political crisis against a backdrop of military defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh last fall.
Each trying to gauge its strength, the two sides called for rallies at 6 p.m. local (2 p.m. GMT) at two separate locations in the capital Yerevan.
For the opposition, the objective is to obtain the departure of the head of government Nikol Pachinian, accused of treason. The latter for his part called on his supporters to show “the disposition of the people to support the democratic and constitutional order”.
A poor country in the Caucasus, Armenia has been close to chaos since Nikol Pashinian accepted in November, under pressure, a peace agreement confirming a humiliating defeat against the sworn enemy, Azerbaijan, in the independence region of Haut- Karabakh.
The opposition has since called for his departure and the confrontation, which had been simmering for months, was dramatically revived Thursday by the general staff’s call for the resignation of Nikol Pachinian.
Weakened but not defeated, the Prime Minister immediately denounced an attempted military coup, ordered the dismissal of the head of the army and gathered 20,000 supporters in the street the same day.
For its part, the opposition has also mobilized with three consecutive days of demonstrations, from Thursday to Saturday.
A small group of supporters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, one of the main opposition parties, managed to break into a government building on Monday before withdrawing without incident, under police surveillance.
Sign of a possible compromise, Lilit Makounts, the head of the parliamentary group of the ruling “Mon Pas” party, said during the day “to be ready to take practical measures to organize early legislative elections”, as required by opposition.
Further aggravating the situation, President Armen Sarkissian – a political opponent of Nikol Pachinian – refused on Saturday to validate the dismissal of the army chief, arguing that the crisis “cannot be resolved by frequent changes of officials”.
Stubborn Nikol Pachinian retorted that he would rescind the dismissal order.
On Monday, the Prime Minister’s supporters planned to converge on a memorial to the victims of the unrest following the presidential elections in March 2008.
Denouncing a biased ballot, the opposition, of which Nikol Pachinian was then one of the rising figures, had been repressed and clashes with the police had left 10 dead and hundreds injured.
Imprisoned for two years for having participated in these demonstrations, Nikol Pachinian took his revenge in the spring of 2018, rising to power during a peaceful revolution that overthrew former President Serge Sarkissian.
Very popular and promising to rid Armenia of the old corrupt elites, Nikol Pachinian however lost some of his credit with the war in Nagorno-Karabakh against Azerbaijan.
Faced with the risk of debacle, the Armenian army asked the head of government in November, after six weeks of fighting, to accept a ceasefire negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and which involved significant territorial losses and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers.
While most of the breakaway Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh has survived, Armenia has lost the symbolic city of Shusha, as well as a glacis of Azerbaijani territory surrounding the region. The war killed around 6,000 people.
The military has so far supported the prime minister, but let go last week after the dismissal of a senior official who criticized Nikol Pashinian’s claims that the defeat was in part due to ineffectiveness of a Russian weapon system, the Iskander missile launchers.
The Armenian general staff then demanded the resignation of the head of government, judging that he was “no longer in a position to take the necessary decisions”. The opposition considers him as a “traitor” who sold the country.