In recent weeks, Armenian and regional political landscapes have witnessed significant events prompting contemplation on their interconnections. Discussions about potential snap elections in Armenia have permeated both pro-government and certain anti-government circles, while Azerbaijan, led by Ilham Aliyev, has already declared snap elections in February.
The chronological examination of the past weeks reveals a complex web of events. Following the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh in September, amid efforts to assist forcibly displaced Armenians, the focus of “Civil Contract” shifted to securing the position of Yerevan City Mayor. Subsequently, Avinyan, aligned with Pashinyan, assumed the mayoral role. Notably, recent actions, including the removal of the elected Mayor of Alaverdi, indicate strategic moves aligning with the discourse of potential snap elections.
Authoritarian leaders typically consolidate control over key cities and communities ahead of elections to secure favorable outcomes. In this context, the steps taken by “Civil Contract” align with such a political strategy.
Zooming out, the visit of James O’Brien, Assistant Secretary at the US State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, to Baku on December 6 underscores geopolitical dynamics. O’Brien’s bypassing of Yerevan amid tensions in US-Azerbaijan relations suggests a calculated move by the US. Unlike Pashinyan’s Armenia, Azerbaijan engages in diplomatic exchanges based on mutual interests, reflecting their pragmatic approach.
The mutual needs of Azerbaijan and the US come into focus. Azerbaijan seeks acknowledgment of its actions in Artsakh as legitimate, closing the Artsakh issue definitively. Simultaneously, the US aims to create challenges for Russia in the South Caucasus, leveraging a potential “peace treaty” between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the Western umbrella.
Bilateral agreements on the exchange of prisoners of war follow O’Brien’s visit, benefiting both Aliyev and Pashinyan. For Azerbaijan, these elections mark the first where votes extend from occupied Artsakh, while for Armenia, they signify the first election post-occupation. Aliyev and Pashinyan appear poised to solidify a status quo where the Republic of Artsakh ceases to exist, advancing their countries’ interests at Armenia’s expense.
In this intricate geopolitical situation, Pashinyan is positioned to secure another “iron mandate” for the proposed “peace treaty,” seemingly untouched by concerns raised over Alaverdi, Gyumri, Yerevan, or the potential snap elections by both the US embassy and the EU delegation.