Armenian president rejects PM’s order to dismiss army chief

Published February 28, 2021
In this file photo, Armenian President Armen Sarkisia attends a parliamentary session in Yerevan, Armenia. — Reuters
In this file photo, Armenian President Armen Sarkisia attends a parliamentary session in Yerevan, Armenia. — Reuters

YEREVAN: Armenian President Armen Sarkisian said on Saturday he had refused to sign a prime ministerial order to dismiss the army’s chief of staff, deepening an entrenched national political crisis.

The move came as several thousand opposition protesters took to the streets of Armenia’s capital Yerevan for the third day running to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

They want him to go over his handling of last year’s war with Azerbaijan, which many see as a national humiliation.

The fresh protests, which have continued on and off since the fighting ended in November, erupted on Thursday when Pashinyan defied a call by the military to resign and accused the army of an attempted coup.

He also ordered the chief of the general staff Onik Gasparyan to be fired — but on Saturday, Armenian President Sarkisian, whose role is largely ceremonial, said in a statement that he would not back the move.

“The president of the republic, within the framework of his constitutional powers, returned the draft decree with objections,” the presidency said.

The political crisis “cannot be resolved through frequent personnel changes”, the statement added. The leadership of the small South Caucasus nation appeared to be at an impasse.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021

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