Armenian parliament votes against protest leader who was sole candidate to be PM
Nikol Pashinyan, popular with thousands who protested, needed support from ruling party
The Armenian parliament has rejected making the opposition lawmaker who led weeks of anti-government rallies the country's prime minister, as tens of thousands of his supporters thronged the streets outside.
After a nine-hour session, the chamber voted 55-45 on Tuesday against appointing Nikol Pashinyan, who was the only candidate nominated to replace the ex-president who resigned as prime minister due to the protests.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 opposition supporters spent the day peacefully rallying outside the parliament building to support Pashinyan.
Pashinyan called on them to stage a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience on Wednesday morning that will include a general strike and blocking roads, railways stations and airports.
He said the protest would be peaceful, and called on police to put down their shields and join his movement.
The vote's outcome enraged many of his supporters assembled near parliament.
"They spat on us but we're not going to tolerate this," bakery owner Samvel Rustamyan, 46, said while jeering and punching his fists in the air. "This government just won't resign on its own will. It's tens of thousands of us, and we need to tell them 'go.' We can't take this anymore."
Pashinyan told colleagues in parliament before the vote that Armenia would be roiled by a "political tsunami," if the majority party did not support him.
"I would like to warn you that your attempts to interpret the tolerance of the popular movement as weakness could cause unexpected and undesirable consequences," Pashinyan said, addressing members of the ruling Republican Party from the rostrum. "Get sober until it's too late, because your behaviour could cause a political tsunami."
The Armenian constitution dictates that parliament will convene next week for another vote.
Pashinyan spearheaded the protests that forced Serzh Sargsyan to resign after less than a week as premier. Sargsyan led Armenia as president for 10 years until term limits forced him to step down and was made prime minister in mid-April.
The opposition in this Caucasus Mountains country saw Sargsyan's move into the prime minister's chair as an attempt by him to stay in power indefinitely.
While Pashinyan was the only candidate for prime minister, the chamber is controlled by Sargsyan's Republicans. Not a single Republican lawmaker appeared to have voted for him.
Before the vote, lawmakers grilled Pashinyan during a question-and-answer session. Later, dozens of them took the floor to speak about Pashinyan's candidacy.
Republican deputies accused Pashinyan of exploiting the young people who have been his core supporters. Some said Pashinyan does not have a program to offer the country.
With files from Reuters