News ID: 213393
Published: 0308 GMT April 17, 2018

Armenia’s ex-president elected PM amid protests

Armenia’s ex-president elected PM amid protests

Armenia’s former president was elected prime minister on Tuesday amid large-scale protests.

The Armenian Parliament voted overwhelmingly to confirm Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister. Sargsyan served as the country’s president from 2008 until earlier this year, when he stepped down because of term limits.

The 63-year-old is becoming head of government under a new political system that gives the president less authority and has the prime minister taking a dominant role.

Thousands of opposition supporters have rallied since the weekend to protest what they think is Sargsyan’s attempt to stay in power indefinitely.

The ruling party pressed ahead with the vote despite opposition rallies that saw several dozen protesters hurt in clashes with police in the capital Yerevan on Monday.

Protesters surrounded government buildings and started a sit-in outside the seat of government on Tuesday.

"I proclaim today the start of a peaceful velvet revolution in Armenia," opposition leader Nikol Pashinian told a rally Yerevan, calling on supporters to "paralyses the work of all government agencies."

Protesters blockaded the entrances to government buildings housing the Foreign Ministry and the central bank, among others, and rallies were also held in the provincial towns of Gyumri and Vanadzor.

The opposition says the new parliamentary system of government will allow Sarkisian to maintain huge influence.

Sarkisian ended his second and final presidential term last week.

"I am standing here today as a leader of the party which can ensure a harmonious cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of power," he told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

A shrewd former military officer, Sarkisian has been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million since winning a presidential vote in 2008.

The country's new figurehead president, Armen Sarkisian, was sworn in last week but his powers will be weaker under the new system of government. The two men are not related.

The rallies began on Friday when more than 4,000 people took part.

Police used stun grenades on Monday as thousands took to the streets of Yerevan.

Authorities said 46 people including six police and opposition leader Pashinian sought medical help.

AP and AFP contributed to this story.



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