Armenia’s ruling party won’t stop ‘people’s candidate’

Republican Party says it will not put forward a member against protest leader Nikol Pashinyan in a bid to calm tensions.

Armenia protests
Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan (right) walks with a supporter during a rally in Yerevan on Sunday [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Armenia‘s ruling party said it would not stop protest leader Nikol Pashinyan becoming interim prime minister if all opposition factions in parliament support his candidacy.

More than two weeks of anti-government protests forced the resignation of Republican Party veteran Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister, and the party said it will not put forward one of its own members to replace him – in a bid to calm tensions.

Pashinyan, a former journalist turned lawmaker, has said parliament must elect him prime minister on Tuesday when it votes.

He is so far the only person to put himself forward and, as of Sunday, had received the support of all opposition parties in parliament that hold 47 seats of the 105-seat legislature, where the Republicans have a majority.

After talks with Pashinyan on Sunday, parliamentary leader of the Republican Party, Vahram Baghdasaryan, said the party would not “impede the election of the people’s candidate” if all three opposition factions in parliament supported him.

Demonstrations resume

The announcement coincided with the resumption of protests in the capital, Yerevan, after a two-day moratorium during which demonstrations against the Republican Party and official corruption were held in smaller cities.

About 5,000 people gathered in a square in the centre of the capital on Sunday before setting off on a march.

In the streets of Yerevan, flag-draped demonstrators blocked intersections, sang songs, played music and chanted slogans, accusing the ruling party of clinging to power against the people’s will.

Sargsyan, who became prime minister on April 17 after serving a decade as president in what was seen by opponents as a power grab, resigned on Monday after 10 days of protests.

Protester Vigen Arabyan said the Republicans had no choice but to throw in the towel and back the hugely popular Pashinyan, 42.

“We simply cannot continue on this path,” the 51-year-old engineer told AFP news agency. “The country is going towards complete destruction if we keep going this way.”

‘Rats from a sinking ship’

Arut Khachatryan, a 17-year-old high school student, said: “We are witnessing a decisive moment.”

Pashinyan, who heads the small Civil Contract party, is the only candidate in the running for the premiership so far and insists only he can rid Armenia of corruption, poverty and nepotism.

He needs the backing of at least six lawmakers from the ruling Republican Party, which has 58 seats in parliament, to clinch victory on Tuesday.

Some analysts said they expected a number of Republicans to defect and give their votes to Pashinyan, sealing his victory.

“I am sure that at least six people from the Republican Party – like rats from a sinking ship – would vote for Pashinyan,” said analyst Ervand Bozoyan.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies