Armenia Opposition Leader Says Ready to Lead Country

Armenia Opposition Leader Says Ready to Lead Country

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018 - 17:00
Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A day after Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian stepped down, the leader of the opposition that had called for his resignation came out on Tuesday to announce that he was ready to lead the country.

"Yes of course we are ready to lead our country," lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan said at a news conference in Yerevan, after being asked whether he was ready to steer the government of the ex-Soviet South Caucasus country.

Pashinyan led eleven days of protests in the capital. He played an instrumental role in ousting the PM, organizing many of the protests and calling for Sarkisian to go in a televised exchange before being jailed. He was released on Monday, hours before Sarkisian announced his shock resignation.

"If people will bestow on me this responsibility, I'll assume the responsibility," he added.

On Wednesday morning the 42-year-old leader of the Civil Contract party is set to meet the acting head of government Karen Karapetyan to discuss the transfer of power.

Karapetyan, an ally of Sarkisian, said it was important to stay united amid the political tumult.

“We are going through a very difficult stage in our new history...demonstrating to the entire world that despite difficulties and unresolved problems we are united,” Karapetyan said in a statement.

Sarkisian’s allies remain in important positions in government and it remains unclear whether his resignation will herald any real change.

According to Armenian law, lawmakers in the parliament, where Sarkisian's Republican Party have a majority, have a week to propose new candidates for PM and could hold a vote on May 2.

Pashinyan, 42, has a history of political activism and was among opposition activists who demonstrated against Sarkisian’s 2008 presidential election victory. Ten people were killed in clashes that followed that win.

After a period of hiding, Pashinyan surrendered to the police in 2009 and was sentenced to four years in prison for organizing civil disturbances. He was released two years later under an amnesty.

“Nikol is a really popular leader, whom we trust,” Karen Mkhitaryan, a 19-year-old student, said of Pashinyan.

Politicians and experts said on Tuesday that Sarkisian, who was president for a decade before trying to extend his time in power, decided to step down due to what they described as unbearable pressure coming from the mass protests.

“Thousands of people were in the streets for days demanding his resignation and the moment came when he had no resources to suppress this movement,” Ararat Mirzoyan, an opposition leader, told Reuters.

Some said Sarkisian’s move was a rare example of political wisdom from a leader under pressure.

“Serzh Sarkisian has confirmed once again that he is a real statesman,” Eduard Sharmazanov, a vice speaker of parliament, told Reuters.

Others praised him for not resorting to a bloody crackdown to stay in power, something he had hinted at on Sunday.

Sarkisian was a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow is closely watching events in Armenia, where it has two military bases. The Kremlin said on Tuesday it was pleased the situation appeared stable for now.

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