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Armenian protest leader rallies support for PM bid

Europe | 2018-04-28 13:32:00
Armenian protest leader rallies support for PM bid
Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinyan Saturday rallied support for his bid to become prime minister following the resignation of veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian as a major opposition party readied its choice.

Pashinyan was to hold anti-government rallies in Armenia's third largest city of Vanadzor and other towns, driving around the landlocked South Caucasus country with his supporters in a column of cars.

The Prosperous Armenia Party, which holds 31 seats in parliament, was expected to issue a statement on whether it would back Pashinyan, a 42-year-old lawmaker who led mass street protests that prompted Sarkisian to resign as prime minister on Monday after being accused of a power grab by the opposition.

Pashinyan said Friday that he hoped Prosperous Armenia and a smaller opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, "will make up their minds and clarify their position."

Analysts said intensive talks were going on behind the scenes and the situation was highly unpredictable.

Sarkisian's Republican Party has a majority of seats in parliament, but Pashinyan says the party is now in "total disarray," while his supporters are calling for it to stand aside.

Pashinyan has issued an ultimatum to the authorities, saying he should be elected prime minister in a vote by lawmakers on May 1.

However, acting head of government Karen Karapetyan has refused to hold talks with him, complaining that he was dictating the agenda.

Analysts say Prosperous Armenia, led by wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukyan, has expressed support for Pashinyan but some of its members say they will only back the party's leader as a candidate.

Pashinyan, who heads the small Civil Contract party, continued his campaigning around the country after thousands attended a rally he led on Friday in Armenia's second largest city of Gyumri, which hosts a Russian military base.

In the small town of Dilijan two or three hundred locals were waiting for Pashinyan to arrive for a rally, holding Armenian flags and beating drums.

"We want change in Armenia and Pashinyan to be elected prime minister right away. If (Sarkisian's) Republicans refuse to leave power, we will force them to do so peacefully," said one of those waiting, Arman Ovsepeyan, a 43-year-old musician.

Pashinyan was set to hold rallies later in the small town of Ijevan at 1000 GMT and then in Vanadzor at 1300 GMT.
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