Armenia parliament to select new PM next week amid political crisis
It's unclear if appointment will assuage the masses who helped topple longtime leader Serzh Sargsyan
The Armenian parliament on Thursday called for an extraordinary session next week to vote for a new prime minister after the country was plunged into a political crisis with the abrupt resignation of its leader.
Serzh Sargsyan, who ruled the country for ten years before moving into the prime minister's seat, surprised many when he stepped down Monday amid massive anti-government protests.
Parliament said in a statement that a vote will be held on May 1 to elect a new leader, potentially spelling a way out of the post-Soviet nation's biggest political crisis in years.
Nikol Pashinian, who leads the opposition and wants to be nominated for prime minister, held talks earlier Thursday with parliamentary factions to secure support for his candidacy.
Sargsyan's party still holds a majority in the parliament, however.
Sargsyan became president in 2008, winning two landslide elections. Under the terms of a constitution approved in 2015 in a referendum that effectively abolished direct presidential elections, parliament can elect a president with a three-quarters majority, but citizens rejected the power play.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied Wednesday in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, calling for Pashinian to become prime minister. Protesters on Thursday morning blocked traffic on major roads in and outside the capital, chanting "Victory!" A major rally is planned for later in the day.
"There are more of us every day," said 30-year-old Samvel Nazaryan, who was waving the Armenian tricolour on a Yerevan street. "The wave of protest will wash away this government sooner or later."
Pashinian called this a show of force a warning that the protesters could paralyze the government if they decide to.
"Protests will grow throughout Armenia until authorities can hear us," he said.
The Kremlin is watching its small but strategic ally, where Russia has a military base, with concern. Moscow, however, has showed restraint in its reaction, insisting that the demonstrations are a domestic matter for Armenia to sort out.
The Kremlin said Thursday President Vladimir Putin discussed the crisis on the phone with Armenian President Armen Sarkisian, Sargsyan's ally. On Wednesday, Russia's ambassador to Yerevan met with Pashinian.
With files from Reuters