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Armenia PM Pashinyan says ready for early elections to end crisis

Armenia PM Pashinyan says ready for early elections to end crisis
March 2, 2021

YEREVAN (AFP) – Armenia’s embattled Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told thousands of rallying supporters on Monday that he was ready to hold early elections to bring the country out of a political crisis.

Facing fire for his handling of last year’s disastrous war with Azerbaijan, Pashinyan filled Yerevan’s central Republic Square with more than 20,000 supporters, as government opponents demonstrated outside parliament to demand his resignation.

The rival rallies came with Pashinyan under increasing pressure for his handling of the war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which saw Armenia suffer heavy losses and agree to hand over swathes of territory to Azerbaijan.

The political uncertainty is threatening to set off a chaotic power struggle in Armenia, an impoverished ex-Soviet republic on the borders of Turkey and Iran. "If the parliamentary opposition agrees to early elections, we will agree to early elections," Pashinyan told the flag-waving crowd.

"Let’s go to the polls and see whose resignation the people are demanding," said Pashinyan, who swept to power after spearheading peaceful protests in 2018. He admitted to making mistakes and asked for forgiveness, but denounced those he said were trying to undermine the country’s democracy.

"Only the people can decide who will remain in power," said Pashinyan, adding that old rivals are trying to undermine his government. "We don’t want the same old leaders to come back, we elected Pashinyan and we trust him," Narine Garibyan, a 59-year-old artist, told AFP at the rally.