Tens of thousands rally in Armenia as ex-president elected PM

Opposition protesters see appointment of Serzh Sargsyan as an attempt to expand his rule.

Armenia‘s parliament has voted to appoint the country’s former President Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister, despite pressure from tens of thousands of protesters who accuse him of a power grab.

Members of parliament on Tuesday voted 77-17 in favour of Sargsyan‘s appointment, as demonstrators rallied in the capital, Yerevan, and several other cities for a fifth day against the move.

Sargsyan was president for a decade, and stepped down last week because of a term limit.

But Armenia’s new constitution has made the presidency largely ceremonial and strengthened the office of the prime minister, allowing Sargsyan to maintain his influence.

Maria Titizian, the editor-in-chief of EVN Report, an Armenian online magazine, said Sargsyan had promised before a 2015 referendum on constitutional reforms that he would not seek the post of the prime minister.

“But in fact on April 9, when his second and final term as president ended, his party, the Republican Party of Armenia nominated his candidacy and today in a vote in parliament he was elected as prime minister, effectively giving him a third term as leader of the country,” she told Al Jazeera from Yerevan.

Sargsyan has effectively been in charge of Armenia since 2008 [PAN Photo via AP]
Sargsyan has effectively been in charge of Armenia since 2008 [PAN Photo via AP]

Titizian also said at least 80 people protesting against Sargsyan‘s appointment were detained by the police.

The protesters’ leader, opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan, declared what he called a “velvet revolution” and urged demonstrators to keep besieging government ministries, the prosecutor’s office, the Central Bank and other official buildings.

Sargsyan, a former military officer who also held the office of prime minister in 2007-2008, has effectively been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million since winning a presidential vote in 2008.

The constitutional amendments were passed after a referendum in December 2015, with some 63 percent of the voters backing the changes.

Source: Al Jazeera