Armenia’s opposition leader has called on supporters to stage protests again on Sunday, according to an Interfax news agency report.
Nikol Pashinyan was to address supporters in Vanadzor, Armenia’s third-largest city, as part of a drive to secure popular support in the run-up to a crucial vote on May 1.
“All protest actions, actions of civil disobedience, should be renewed with new force. The victory of the people must be recognised … there can be no violence,” Pashinyan told a crowd of supporters in the town of Ijevan on Saturday.
The Interfax report said Pashinyan encouraged supporters to stage protests in the capital, Yerevan, on May 1, the day parliament is scheduled to select a new interim prime minister.
“I’m calling on the citizens of Armenia to go out to the streets from early morning on May 1 and to flood all streets and squares, including around the National Assembly,” he is quoted as saying.
On Friday, more than 10,000 people gathered in Gyumri, the country’s second-biggest city – which also hosts a Russian military base – in a show of support for Pashinyan in advance of the May 1 vote, when legislators will debate and possibly name a new prime minister.
A newspaper editor and member of Armenia’s National Assembly, Pashinyan was set to meet Karen Karapetian, the acting prime minister, at noon on Friday to discuss the political crisis.
However, the prime minister’s office announced on the morning of the meeting that it had been called off.
Karapetyan accuses Pashinyan of attempting to dictate the agenda.
For his part, Pashinyan told a crowd of supporters on Friday his “de facto victory” should be recognised by parliament on May 1.
“There is one road: choose me as the premier of Armenia, as the candidate of you, of the people … Our de-facto victory should be settled de jure on May 1 within the walls of parliament,” he said.
Russia, which is Armenia’s main ally and trading partner, has not yet reacted to the developments.
However, President Vladimir Putin is said to have called for a quick solution to the crisis in a phone conversation with Karapetyan on Thursday.
The outgoing Sargsyan’s Republican Party holds a majority in parliament but Pashinyan says the party is in “total disarray”.
The Yelk opposition faction – of which Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party is a member – holds only nine of Armenia’s 105-seat parliament.
In Friday’s remarks, Pashinyan said he hoped the opposition parties will “make up their minds and clarify their position” as to whether they will support his bid for the prime minister’s job.
He said his movement was focused on improving the state of Armenia and that he would seek no “geopolitical reversals” if appointed prime minister.
“We have said and are saying that after we come to power there will be no geopolitical reversals”, he said.
Pashinyan pledged to stay in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), “not because we love this organisation … but because it meets the national interests of the Republic of Armenia”.