12/11/2020, 11.55
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Armenians in turmoil after Karabakh defeat

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Ultimatum to Nikol Pašinyan, to resign and give way to former defense minister Vazken Manukyan. Appeal from katholikos Karekin II and Aram I, of the Great House of Cilicia. Pašinyan, his removal "would lead Armenia to anarchy, setting up a puppet government", closely linked to Moscow. Frustrations over the victory parade in Baku.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Groups of activists opposed to Prime Minister Nikol Pašinyan yesterday attempted to invade the presidential palace, isolating traffic in the central streets of the capital. The police reacted by making at least 30 arrests (photo 1). The reason for the protest is Pašinyan's refusal to resign, as his opponents’ demand.

The protests have continued since the end of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, when on 10 November Pašinyan accepted an accord with Azerbaijan. In Armenian public opinion, it was a capitulation, and the prime minister has been accused of betraying his homeland.

On 2 December, opposition representatives declared that they had agreed on a candidate to oppose the premier. They agreed on the name of the popular ex-defence minister Vazken Manukyan (photo 2), defeated in 1996 in the presidential election by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, for many observers by fraudulent means.

Pašinyan received an ultimatum: to resign by 5 December, then moved to 8 December, otherwise civil disobedience would begin. Manukyan warned that if the premier had not voluntarily gotten out of the way, they would have forced him to do so: “Pašinyan must understand that this is the only acceptable and peaceful way out; if it doesn't happen, the enraged people will tear him to pieces”.

Manukyan himself explained that he is willing to lead the country on an interim basis until new parliamentary elections, in which he hhas no intention of running.

The incumbent prime minister ignored these claims, and Ishkhan Sagatelyan, head of the opposition Dashnaktsutiun party, called on the citizens of Armenia to take to the streets "with peaceful actions" to force him to accept the ultimatum. The demonstrators then asked the police to enter the building where the council of ministers was being held, to meet Pašinyan.

The president of Armenia, Armen Sarkisyan, also spoke out in favour of the resignation of the prime minister. Until last July he enjoyed a consensus of over 80% of the population, now it has dropped to 38%. Over half of the population agrees with his resignation, considering him responsible for the defeat in Nagorno Karabakh.

The katholikos (patriarch) of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II (photo3), in turn invited the prime minister to resign. As the official text of the See of the "Holy Echmiadzin", the Armenian "Vatican" communicates, "following the growing tension in society, internal and external challenges, and also the low level of social trust towards the Prime Minister, we invite him paternally to give up his mandate to avoid upheavals, with possible clashes with tragic consequences ".

The katholikos also addresses parliament, inviting everyone to act with a great sense of responsibility and to listen to the demands of citizens, forming a provisional government of national harmony. The appeal of Karekin II, also supported by the other katholikos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I (photo 4), head of the Armenians abroad residing in Beirut, could be decisive in pushing Pašinyan to step aside, given the great prestige of the patriarchs in the eyes of public opinion, even if there is no shortage of angry reactions to the "interference of the Church in politics" in various sectors of society.

Nikol Pašinyan denounced the leaders of the protests, declaring that "they are the same ones who wanted to kill me during the 2018 velvet revolution", and their proposal "would lead Armenia to anarchy, setting up a puppet government". The premier wonders why they are not simply proposing early elections, and we want a provisional government without any parliamentary base, which in fact would be under the orders of Moscow.

The triumphal parade organized on December 10 in Baku by President Ilham Aliev, in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in front of three thousand soldiers also contributed to the sense of defeat and anger of the Armenians, one month after the end of the conflict and with the parade of 150 units of the latest generation of war vehicles. The crowd was also shown the military equipment captured in Armenia during the war.

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