Armenia PM bows to days of protests and resigns after power grab
Move was precipitated by members of Armenia's military joining in the protests
Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan said Monday he would resign to help maintain peace in the ex-Soviet republic following daily street protests since before he took up the post on April 17.
Sarksyan, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had served as Armenia's president for a decade until earlier this month and had faced accusations of clinging to power when parliament voted for him to take up the post of prime minister.
Earlier on Monday, pressure on the 63-year-old to quit increased sharply when unarmed Armenian soldiers joined the anti-government protests in the capital Yerevan that first began on April 13.
"I got it wrong," Sarksyan said in a statement issued by his office. "In the current situation, there are several solutions, but I won't choose any of them. It's not my style. I am quitting the country's leadership and the post of prime minister of Armenia."
Sarkysan served as president beginning in 2008.
A constitutional amendment approved in 2015 by referendum effectively abolished direct presidential elections, instead allowing parliament to elect a president with a three-quarters majority. The presidency of the impoverished southern Caucasus nation was then to become largely ceremonial.
Sarkysan was ultimately unable to emulate Putin, who shifted the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev to circumvent term limits and still wield power.
Though peaceful, the tumult has threatened to destabilize Armenia, a key Russian ally in a volatile region riven by its decades-long, low-level conflict with Azerbaijan.
Moscow, which has two military bases in Armenia, was watching events closely.
Former Armenian prime minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally of Sarksyan, was named as acting prime minister, Russia's RIA news agency said, citing the Armenian government's press office. Armenia's political parties in parliament now have seven days to put forward the name of a new prime minister.
Protesters loudly celebrated Sarksyan's resignation. Some hugged police officers in the street amid repeated cries of "Hurrah!" and others beeped car horns, and some residents of Yerevan were even spotted dancing outside.
The protests saw tens of thousands of protesters march through Yerevan and other towns, blocking streets and staging sit-ins that disrupted daily life.
On Sunday, police had detained three opposition leaders and almost 200 protesters, drawing a rebuke from the European Union. Police released Nikol Pashinyan, a lawmaker regarded as the main opposition leader, on Monday.
With files from CBC News