Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Pashinyan warns of turmoil if not elected

PROTEST:Tens of thousands of Armenians gathered in the capital as opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan addressed parliament ahead of a vote for a new prime minister

Reuters, YEREVAN

Supporters of opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan attend a rally as they wait for the results of parliament’s election of an interim prime minister in Yerevan yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan yesterday urged supporters to take to the streets to pressure parliament to choose him as prime minister, and warned of a political “tsunami” if the ruling elite clings to power.

Pashinyan led days of protests that forced veteran leader Serzh Sarksyan to step down as prime minister last week and is the sole nominee to take over the role. However, he needs approval from a parliament dominated by Sarksyan supporters.

As tens of thousands of people gathered in central Yerevan, Pashinyan told lawmakers before a vote on his candidacy that Sarksyan’s backers in the ruling Republican Party should not snub the Armenian people’s demands for change.

“You would think that in the situation that has unfolded conclusions would have been drawn, but the Republican Party has started to play cat-and-mouse with the people,” said Pashinyan, who had swapped his usual camouflage T-shirt for a suit and tie.

Addressing Republican Party officials, he said: “Your behavior, treating the tolerance of the people as a weakness, could become the cause of a tsunami.”

“I turn to the nation of the Republic of Armenia and every citizen of the Republic of Armenia,” Pashinyan said in speech broadcast live on two big screens to the crowd in the capital’s central Republic Square.

“Don’t stay at home, and right now, go out into the streets if you have not done it yet... Flood out onto the streets and the squares of the capital and other towns in the republic,” he said.

Supporters in the square waved the Armenian flag and carried balloons in the national colors. They blew horns and chanted “Nikol — prime minister!”

“I’m sure we will win today, Armenia will win,” 19-year-old student Suren Gevorkyan said.

Pashinyan has received the support of opposition parties, which together hold 47 seats in the 105-seat legislature, but he will require a majority to win.

If Pashinyan does become prime minister, it would signal a dramatic shift in power in ex-Soviet Armenia, which has been dominated by the same cadre of leaders since the late 1990s.

Pashinyan, a 42-year-old former newspaper editor, said in his speech to parliament that, if elected, he would maintain a close relationship with Moscow.

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