Members of liberal Armenian opposition coalition Yelk staged a protest in Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly, today by releasing coloured smoke flares on the assembly floor. The pair were protesting ex-President Serzh Sargsyan’s candidacy for the office of Prime Minister.
MP Ararat Mirzoyan of the Civil Contract Party, a member of the Yelk (way out) coalition, took to the podium at the National Assembly, declaring ‘we have to end the rule of the Republican Party’, and announcing that Yelk would sponsor protests on Yerevan’s Freedom Square scheduled for the evening of 13 April.
‘We will light the torch of freedom together at Freedom Square’, he said, before producing a smoke flare, which began to emit yellow smoke. Mirzoyan was then joined at the podium by MP Lena Nazaryan, also from Yelk, who produced two smoke flares which emitted yellow and green smoke.
After the protest, Vice President of the National Assembly Eduard Sharamazov, seated behind the two MPs at the speaker’s table, said ‘it seemed the show did not succeed. Let us go on with our normal work’.
Serzh Sargsyan stepped down as President on 9 April as part of ongoing constitutional reforms to change the government from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system.
Having previously played down suggestions he would run again for political office, Sargsyan announced on 11 April that he would seek the position of Prime Minister, now the most powerful post in the country.
Several protests loosely organised around the slogan ‘No to Serzh’, have been held since March. Protesters have been gathering in front of the ruling Republican Party’s headquarters since 9 April, when acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan announced that Serzh Sargsyan would replace him. A new prime minister is expected to be sworn in on 17 April.
Reactions to the protests on the floor of the National Assembly have been mixed. Hetq quoted National Assembly President Ara Babloyan as saying the protest could have started a fire. ‘As a doctor and citizen, I am stating that such actions, for political reasons, are unacceptable when they threaten the lives of citizens’.
This represents the first such protest in Armenia. Smoke bombs and tear gas canisters have become common tools for the opposition in Kosovo during the ongoing debate regarding a possible revision of the border with Montenegro.