Armenian Protest Leader Has Long Track Record Of Defiance, Civil Disobedience


Meeting of the Parliament of Armenia passes in conditions when thousands of people blocked streets of Yerevan, protesting against the election of Serzh Sargsyan as Prime Minister. The protest erupted after former President Serzh Sargsyan was sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday.

Immediately after his hour-long speech the protesters marched to the intersection of three avenues forming Yerevan's sprawling France Square and blocked traffic through it. Pashinian urged them to stay there through the night, saying that riot police will not attempt to disperse them in that case. In 2015 Armenia had a constitutional referendum as a result of which the form of government has changed from semi-presidential to parliamentary.

The Armenian Health Ministry reported later that 46 people required medical assistance after the clash.

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

Many in the crowd of protesters said Pashinian's call for the demonstrations to remain nonviolent helped convince them to join in. Earlier on Monday, the parliamentary factions of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and its junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, formally nominated Sarkisian for what will now be the country's top government post.

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Parliament is expected to elect him on Tuesday.

The protests have left the nation's capital paralyzed for the fourth day with protesters blocking main roads in Yerevan and disrupting public transportation thus calling on people to voice dissent to what they described as Serzh Sargsyan's third term in office. The injuries were caused by the special measures that had been taken by the police.

The ex-president's allies claim that he never explicitly pledged not to become prime minister. The rallies began on Friday when more than 4,000 people took part.

A former editor in chief of and owner of Haikakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times), one of the most popular Armenian newspapers, Pashinian was elected to parliament in 2012 as a representative of the opposition Armenian National Congress party.