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Armenian President Armen Sarkissian appointed Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister

Originally published on Global Voices

Nikol Pashinyan. Photo by Mehr News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian appointed Nikol Pashinyan as the country’s Prime Minister on Monday, August 1. The appointment follows Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party victory in the June snap election. Pashinyan had been serving as acting Prime Minister until the official appointment on August 1.

Following the June snap parliamentary election, the Civil Contract Party secured a victory, winning 71 out of 107 parliamentary seats. The remaining seats belong to members of the Armenia Alliance (29 seats) led by former President Robert Kocharyan, and the I Have Honor coalition (7 seats) led by former President Serzh Sargsyan. A total of 21 parties and four alliances took part in the June election (the original list included 22 parties, but one party withdrew before the vote). There were a total of 2,623 candidates, including 965 women (37 percent).

The newly elected parliament convened on Monday, where members of the Civil Contract Party nominated Pashinyan as their candidate for Prime Minister. Following the nomination, President Armen Sarkissian signed a decree confirming the appointment.

Pashinyan rose to power after leading a revolution in 2018, promising economic reforms and ousting the previously dominating oligarchs and monopolies. However, his popularity took a hit in November 2020 when the country lost the Nagorno-Karabakh war with neighboring Azerbaijan. The war ended with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire which restored Baku’s sovereignty over a swath of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts and was largely seen as a failure for Pashinyan.

In the following months, as recriminations grew over the PM’s handling of the war, he stepped down,  as required by law, to allow an election to take place while remaining the country’s leader.

During the first session of the parliament, the bloc representing Kocharyan reportedly protested by banging their hands on tables as the speaker addressed the members. They were joined by Sargsyan’s party members.

The protest was related “to the opposition lawmakers demanding the immediate release of two of their colleagues arrested last month on what they see as politically motivated charges,” reported Radio Azatutyun, Armenian service for Radio Free Europe. Politicians Mkhitar Zakarian and Artur Sargsian were arrested on separate criminal charges of abuse of office and forgery last month, charges they both deny.

“Mr. Zakarian and Mr. Sargsian are not absent [from the parliament] but held hostage. They want to attend the parliament session just like you do, but they are not allowed to,” said Aram Vardevanian, a member of Kocharyan’s Hayastan [Armenia] bloc, appealing to the parliament’s pro-government majority, reported Radio Azatutyun.

Meanwhile, a senior member of Civil Contract dismissed the demands, saying both Zakarian and Sargsian were arrested prior to becoming members of the parliament.
When the ruling party nominated party member Alen Simonian as the new speaker of the parliament, members of both opposition blocs walked out of the room.
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