Tens of thousands of opposition supporters in Armenia have blocked roads and government buildings in the capital, Yerevan, in a protest action called by opposition figure Nikol Pashinyan, whose bid to become prime minister has failed at the country’s parliament.
Crowds of protesters, including elderly people and housewives, effectively paralyzed Yerevan by closing almost all streets to traffic.
The protesters waved national flags, blew long car horns, and shouted “Free, independent Armenia!”
Pashinyan, who led an earlier wave of street protests prompting the resignation of then-Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, himself failed to garner the adequate number of votes at the parliament — controlled by the ruling Republican Party — to replace Sargsyan.
Despite being the only candidate, Pashinyan did not receive the 53 votes he required to secure a majority in the 105-seat parliament on Tuesday. He received 45.
Frustrated, he called for nationwide strikes and urged his supporters to block transport.
On Wednesday, Pashinyan said he and his supporters would not give up and would persist with their campaign of “civil disobedience.”
“My only power is my people. We are not going to give up,” he said, dressed in his trademark camouflage T-shirt and cap, during a rally in Yerevan. “We will continue our strike and disobedience.”
Asked whether he would re-submit his candidacy for the prime minister’s office to the parliament following its rejection on Tuesday by the ruling party-controlled institution, he said, “We will think and negotiate.”
“I can’t tell you now, it will depend on the specific situation,” he said.
Another attempt to elect a new prime minister for the troubled country is due in one week. However, if the parliament fails again to elect a new prime minister with majority support, general elections must be held.
Pashinyan, a 42-year-old former journalist who spent two years in jail for fomenting unrest after the presidential election in 2008, was a relatively unknown political figure until he emerged on the streets again after Sargsyan — long the president — took the country’s now all-powerful premiership.
While Pashinyan has vowed a “political tsunami,” the unrest in Armenia risks turning into a security crisis in a country that is locked in a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan. There are Russian military bases in Armenia, too.
The protesters accuse the ruling elite of clinging on to power, including by holding a grip on top security posts.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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