Home Europe Outrage Across Armenia After the Rejection of Nikol Pashinyan’s Candidacy

Outrage Across Armenia After the Rejection of Nikol Pashinyan’s Candidacy

Nikol Pashinyan

Nikol Pashinyan

Tens of thousands Armenians on Wednesday gathered in the capital, blocking roads and government buildings in Yerevan to protest against the ruling party’s rejection of opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan’s premiership bid.

In a prodigious show of defiance, crowd of protesters including many elderly people and housewives incapacitated the Armenian capital. Protesters waved national flags, blew vuvuzelas and heard shouting, “Free, independent Armenia!”

“Various scenarios are under discussion, under each scenario the people will win,” said Mr Pashinyan.

In parliament, lawmakers could not convene for a session due to the absence of a quorum, with the opposition Prosperous Armenia party declaring a boycott.

“There is an emergency situation in the country. Our faction declares a political boycott,” said Prosperous Armenia lawmaker Vahe Enfiajyan.

Under Armenian law parliament should again gather in a week to try and elect a prime minister. If it fails, the legislature will be dissolved and early elections called.

In the second city of Gyumri – which hosts a Russian military base – and the smaller town of Maralik demonstrators occupied the mayor’s office and demanded local authorities join the protest movement.

Mr Pashinyan urged Armenians to launch a general strike after the ruling Republican Party on Tuesday blocked his bid for prime minister-following two weeks of anti-government protests that ousted veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian.

Protesters said they would stay on the streets for as long as it takes to oust the ruling elites from power and get Mr Pashinyan elected premier.

“The people will not give up, protests will not subside,” Sergey Konsulyan, a 45-year-old businessman.

Student Gayane Amiragyan, 19, added: “We will win because we are united; the whole Armenian people are united.”

Parliament voted 45 in favour to 55 against Mr Pashinyan, with the Republican Party headed by Mr Sarkisian saying he was not a suitable candidate for the top job.

Pashinyan’s failure to get elected has plunged the Moscow-allied nation of 2.9 million people into uncertainty, with observers expressing concern that the turmoil could destabilize the country and the wider region.

Mr Pashinyan has ruled out any possibility of clashes between protesters and police. But the risk of violence has not been lost on politicians in a country locked in a decades-long territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.

Mr Pashinyan – who was the sole candidate in the running for prime minister – had been thought to be just a handful of votes short of a majority in parliament and was widely expected to get elected

Ahead of the vote, the Republicans said they would not stand in the way of his candidacy but they withheld their support during Tuesday’s vote, excoriating Mr Pashinyan during the nail-biting extraordinary session.

Mr Pashinyan’s protest movement had accused Sarkisian and his party of a power grab, saying the former leader wanted to extend his grip on power by becoming premier after serving as president for a decade, despite failing to tackle a litany of problems like corruption and poverty.

Russia has urged compromise while the United States has called for “a resolution that reflects the interests of all Armenians”.