Armenia PM quits, admitting he was wrong 

Armenia PM quits, admitting he was wrong 

Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has stepped down following days of demonstrations in the capital Yerevan over what was seen as an unconstitutional power grab by the former president.

Sargsyan previously served the maximum two, five-year terms as president until he was appointed prime minister earlier this month. 

Over the weekend Nikol Pashinian, an opposition MP and leader of the protests, was arrested but was released yesterday (Monday) shortly before the announcement.

Sarksyan, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the only candidate for prime minister presented to parliament.

Russia, which has tried to avert revolutions in neighbouring states in the past, appeared to accept Sargsyan’s resignation. The Kremlin said it would not involve itself in internal Armenian politics. 

Under a revised constitution, with amendments having been approved in 2015 with Sargsyan’s support, the prime minister holds the power with the presidency reduced to a largely ceremonial role. 

Sargsyan was compared to the return of Putin to the presidency in 2012, after spending four years as prime minister. Putin too faced opposition protests, but managed to survive them.

The nomination of Sarksyan by his Republican party sparked protests, which began on April 13 and grew in number.

They started with mostly young people who had less fear of those in power before attracting other generations and, eventually, unarmed soldiers yesterday, increasing pressure on Sarksyan.

“Nikol Pashinian was right. I was wrong,” a Sarksyan statement said. “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.”

Tens of thousands filled Republic Square, waving flags, blowing vuvuzelas and chanting “victory”. 

Pashinian’s Civil Contract party has just four seats out of the 105 in the Armenian National Assembly and is one of three others in the Way Out coalition.

“The first stage of our revolution is over: the prime minister has resigned,” Pashinian told the crowd in Republic Square.

Sarksyan had met Pashinian in Yerevan on Sunday but left after a few minutes and the protest leader was detained, along with two other opposition leaders and nearly 200 protesters, drawing a rebuke from the European Union.

Armenia is holding its Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide today, marking the killing of 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War by the Ottoman authorities. Hundreds of thousands of people would be probably have been involved with events and it was likely to have turned into a mass anti-Sarksyan demonstration. It would have been unthinkable to suppress the event with any use of force.

 

Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan with his ally Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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