Nikol Pashinyan has faced weeks of protests calling for his ouster in the wake of Armenia’s defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan.
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.
“I will resign in April — not to leave power, but to hold early parliamentary elections. I will continue to act as prime minister” as head of the Cabinet, Pashinyan said Sunday in a meeting with residents of the village of Aragats. He didn’t give a specific date for stepping down.
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.