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Protest leader demands new elections in Armenia

24 April 2018
Crowds in Yerevan celebrating Sargsyan’s resignation (Armine Avetisyan /OC Media)

Protest leader Nikol Pashinyan has called for fresh parliamentary elections in Armenia, following the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. Sargsyan stepped down after an 11-day campaign of street protests and civil disobedience against his rule.

Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan from the ruling Republican Party assumed the office of acting prime minister on Monday afternoon following Sargsyan’s resignation. Political parties will now have a week to nominate a new prime minister.

Protest leader Nikol Pashinyan (Mari Nikuradze /OC Media)

In a speech to jubilant supporters on the eve after Sargsyan’s resignation, Pashinyan declared that ‘the velvet revolution was victorious’ and demanded that a ‘people’s prime minister’ be selected to lead an interim government until new elections could be held.

Pashinyan also called for all political prisoners to be released, adding that acting Prime Minister Karapetyan had promised that all those detained and arrested during the protests would be released.

He also announced a march from Yerevan’s central Republic Square to Tsitsernakaberd — the site of the 1915 Genocide Memorial on Tuesday. The 24th of April is observed as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day in Armenia and by the Armenian diaspora.

Negotiations between Pashinyan and Karapetyan over what will happen next are scheduled for 25 April.

Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party, a member of the Yelk (way out) opposition block, has only three seats in the current parliament, including his own. Yelk, a coalition of three parties, has a total of nine, while the ruling Republican party and their allies the Armenian Revolutionary Federation have 65 of a total of 105.

OSCE observers noted that the 2017 parliamentary elections were ‘tainted by credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies’.

Following a meeting with former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan on Sunday that lasted just three minutes, opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was arrested before being released the following day (CivlNet)
Police arrested hundreds of people during 11 days of protests in Yerevan. (Mari Nikuradze/ OC Media)

Following constitutional changes passed in 2015, Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly, is now in charge of electing the prime minister. With Armenia’s shift from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system, the prime minister is the most powerful position in the country.

Having previously played down suggestions he would run again for political office, Sargsyan, having served the maximum 10 years as president, announced on 11 April that he would seek the position of Prime Minister. On 17 April, he was sworn in as PM by Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly.

Protests loosely organised around the slogan ‘No to Serzh’, had been held since March, with tens of thousands coming out into the streets daily after 13 April in what Pashinyan called a ‘velvet revolution’.

Rally in Yerevan on 16 April (Knar Khudoyan /OC Media)

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