YEREVAN (ARMENIA): Armenia's reformist Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday announced his resignation on television, paving the way for snap elections.
"My dear and proud people, today I tendered my resignation," Pashinyan said, pledging to "ensure the free expression of (the) people's will during snap parliamentary elections."
Pashinyan's resignation is seen as a manoeuvre to return ultimately as prime minister and with control of parliament.
He came to power in May after spearheading weeks of mass anti-government rallies which toppled veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian.
Pashinyan has since reshaped the Caucasus nation's political landscape, ousting many of the old elites from power.
The new government quickly found itself at loggerheads with the majority of lawmakers who are allied with ex-president Sarkisian and have stood in the way of Pashinyan's reform drive.
Pashinyan, a 43-year-old former journalist, aims to hold snap polls before the end of the year in an attempt to weaken the influence of Sarkisian who was ousted after a 10-year stint as president.
Parliamentary elections are not scheduled until 2022.
Pashinyan's resignation could trigger snap polls -- but only if MPs twice fail to select a new prime minister over the next two weeks, resulting in the dissolution of parliament.
During a meeting with his party members on Tuesday, Pashinyan said that he planned to put forward his candidacy for the prime minister's post -- but "with the aim not to get elected" so as to spark the snap poll.
All the opposition factions in the parliament have agreed they will not nominate their own candidates for prime minister.
"Pashinyan's resignation is aimed at artificially creating a situation leading to snap polls, which he needs to complete the revolutionary process," political analyst Arman Boshyan told AFP.
Pashinyan and his ministers will continue as an acting cabinet until a new prime minister is elected.
According to the Armenian constitution, snap legislative elections must be held between 30 and 45 days after parliament is dissolved.
At peak of popularity
In a move that triggered new street protests by Pashinyan's supporters, the Armenian parliament passed on October 3 a bill making it harder to dissolve the assembly and hold snap elections.
Pashinyan accused MPs of stabbing him in the back, saying the adoption of the bill was nothing short of a "counter-revolution".
He then fired six ministers from the Prosperous Armenia and Dashnaktsutyun parties who backed the controversial bill which was sponsored by Sarkisian's Republican Party.
The Republican Party has said it is not against holding snap polls but wants them to be called no earlier than in May or June so the parties have time to prepare for the campaign.
Analysts said that Pashinyan, who has campaigned against corruption and for economic reform, is seeking new elections while he is at the peak of his popularity.
"He is in a hurry because he knows that his popularity -- which is at its peak right now -- might dwindle," said Boshyan.
On September 24, Pashinyan's bloc won a landslide victory in municipal elections, getting over 80 percent of the vote in the capital Yerevan where nearly 40 percent of the country's population lives.