Few political leaders have the same support as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia.
Many in the South Caucasus country blamed him for his humiliating defeat in last year’s war with neighboring Azerbaijan in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Thousands of protesters, top generals and political opponents urged him to resign, while thousands of grieving families of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh flooded Armenia.
And he will resign.
The 44-year-old man with a gray beard says he will resign by the end of April.
In a March 18 Facebook post, after much pressure to do so, Pashinyan announced a quick parliamentary vote in June as “the best way” to get out of the crisis.
But resignation and voting are far from heralded Pashinyan’s political demise.
According to a Gallup International Association poll held in late March, the My Step coalition he leads is likely to win the election – and elect him as prime minister again.
Nearly a third of the voters are ready to vote for My Footsteps, which currently holds 75% of the seats in Armenia’s unicameral parliament.
Meanwhile, Pashinyan’s main rival, Robert Kocharyan, the former separatist leader who served as the President of Armenia in 1998-2008, fell behind with less than 6%.
Kremlin’s march to drumming?
During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, when Armenia suffered losses, Pashinyan moved away from his friendly Western sympathies to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin as Armenia’s supreme international supporter – and king.
On April 7, his nearly four-hour meeting with Putin looked like a successful campaign stop – and an admiration. He listened attentively to Putin, who imitated the voice of a mentor as he spoke to him in a tea room in the Kremlin.
“We discussed all matters effectively,” Pashinyan told a Russian television station after the meeting. “Yes, I am very pleased.”
Pashinyan has negotiated the supply of a Russian-made anti-coronavirus vaccine, discussed building a nuclear power plant that would be vital to resource-poor Armenia and securing Moscow’s help in releasing 200 Armenian war prisoners detained in Azerbaijan.
“The Kremlin is in complete control of the situation in Armenia and the Pashinyan launch is no longer a threat to Moscow as it did in its early years as prime minister,” said Emil Mustafayev, an analyst based in the Azerbaijan capital Baku. to speak. Al Jazeera.
In an article published in the Kommersant daily on April 8, Moscow-based analyst Sergey Strokan wrote: “The former leader of the Armenian color revolution has become an example of how a bad boy is. turned into a politician who finally understood who. and how much more “.
“Color revolutions” are something the Kremlin hates and tries to stop.
The term goes back to the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and the 2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
Both pro-Russian leaders were deposed to support pro-Western leaders, and the Kremlin insists that the West sponsors them.
To prevent a possible “color revolution” in Russia, Putin has strengthened election laws, suppressed the opposition, and launched youth movements trained in how to disperse protest protests. .
To prevent such revolts in former Soviet republics, Moscow has strengthened its soft power and provided loans and weapons to support Kremlin-friendly leaders such as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
But Pashinyan took over as prime minister after leading a “color revolution”.
A series of street protests in 2018 drew as many as 100,000 people in the country of 3.5 million, and brought down a powerful group of mostly pro-Russian officials.
After Pashinyan came to power in 2018, many believed he would lead Armenia west.
“There has been a lot of discussion among experts that Armenia’s new democratic government, with many overt anti-Russian officials in its ranks, will gradually reduce Armenia’s dependence on Russia,” said analyst Benyamin. Poghosyan, based in Yerevan, wrote in an article published by KarabakhSpace.eu News on April 12.
But “now, Armenia is more dependent on Russia than ever,” he concluded.
To some, this fact feels particularly bitter because despite a defense treaty with Yerevan and a military base on Armenian soil, Moscow chose to sit out of the recent war with Azerbaijan.
Conflict killed thousands on both sides, and under the Russian-mediated ceasefire, a large portion of Nagorno-Karabakh had returned to Azerbaijan.
A gift for Putin
Pashinyan did not come to Moscow empty-handed.
In an apparent attempt to appease Putin, he let out his worst political enemy.
The day before his departure to Moscow, the Armenian Constitutional Court ruled to cancel the “coup” allegations against Kocharyan – almost 13 years after he ordered the use of violence against a protest. on the street was run by Pashinyan, who was then a popularist.
Eight protesters and two police officers were killed during the 2008 persecution, and Pashinyan was then sentenced to seven years in prison. He was pardoned after serving a one year sentence.
After the charges were dismissed, Kocharyan immediately began forming an opposition coalition to run in the June 20 vote.
The coalition still doesn’t have a name and their ratings are currently low, but if Kocharyan wins or secures a substantial portion of parliament, the results won’t be bad for the Kremlin either.
Yerevan-based political analyst Boris Navasardian told Al Jazeera: “Together with him, the team he formed as the Armenian president for 10 years, will be back.