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Armenian Prime Minister confirms he will step down to allow election

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan, Armenia on Feb. 25, 2021.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan, Armenia on Feb. 25, 2021.   -   Copyright  Stepan Poghosyan/PHOTOLURE via AP

Armenia’s embattled prime minister on Sunday announced that he will step down in April, but stay in the position on an interim basis until parliamentary elections in June.

"I will resign in April — not to leave power, but to hold early parliamentary elections. I will continue to act as prime minister” Nikol Pashinyan said on Sunday in a meeting with residents of the village of Aragats. He didn't give a specific date for stepping down.

Pashinyan has faced weeks of protests calling for him to go in the wake of Armenia’s defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan.

Brought to power in 2018 by a popular revolution denouncing the corruption of the post-Soviet elites, the anger towards him was heightened at the end of February when he sacked several senior military officials, accusing them of wanting to plot a coup.

In a move to defuse the political crisis, Pashinyan two weeks ago announced that an early election would be held on June 20. Under Armenian law, such elections can be held after a premier resigns and the parliament fails twice to choose a new one.

Armenia has been gripped by political tensions after suffering a humiliating defeat last year in an armed conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory within Azerbaijan that Armenia-backed separatists controlled for more than 25 years.

Pashinyan signed a peace deal in November that ceded parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and large swaths of adjacent Armenian-controlled territory. He defends the move as the only way to have prevented Azerbaijan from taking the entire region.

Pashinyan has retained significant public backing despite the defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh, with thousands rallying in his support to counter the opposition-led pressure for his resignation.