Armenia Braces for More Protests as Mediation Talks Fail

Armenia Braces for More Protests as Mediation Talks Fail

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 - 09:45
Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan leads a rally in Yerevan. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Armenia was set to witness more protests against the ruling elite after the opposition leader and acting prime minister canceled talks to discuss the country’s future.

Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan and acting PM Karen Karapetyan were set to meet in wake of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation following days of protests against his election, but they failed to agree on an agenda.

Police took up positions in the center of the Armenian capital Yerevan to monitor the protest as Karapetyan suggested new parliamentary elections to defuse the political crisis.

"The fight is not over!," said 21-year-old Susana Adamyan, one of the demonstrators, who was clutching a placard calling on people to take a stand as policemen looked on.

Though protests have so far been peaceful, the sudden upheaval has threatened to destabilize Armenia, a Russian ally in a volatile region riven by its decades-long, low-level conflict with Azerbaijan.

Moscow, which has two military bases in Armenia, is closely watching events.

Demonstrators, led by Pashinyan, had accused Sarkisian of manipulating the constitution to cling to power and crowds wildly celebrated after he quit.

Pashinyan declared on Tuesday that he was ready to become the people's prime minister.

Karapetyan suggested on Wednesday that early parliamentary elections be held so as to test the level of popular support for Pashinyan and his potential viability as prime minister.

"What does 'people's candidate' mean?," Karapetyan told a news conference.

"I don't know any country where a prime minister is chosen like that. There are elections for that. If he (Pashinyan) is the people's choice, that means the people will choose him."

The economy of the landlocked South Caucasus country of three million would face problems if the crisis continued, Karapetyan said.

He did not say when new elections might be held.

For his part, Pashinyan accused the authorities of unwillingness to negotiate the transfer of power.

He said the ruling Republican Party did not wish to cede power and called on his supporters to renew protests.

"The problem was not only Serzh Sarkisian, but the entire Republican Party."

The new prime minister must be a "people's candidate" and not a member of Sarkisian's ruling Republican Party, he said.

Karapetyan retorted in a statement, by saying: "This not a negotiation, a dialogue but simply promoting his own agenda.”

Separately, President Armen Sarkissian said he would start talks with political forces to try to resolve the crisis.

"I am starting consultations with parliamentary and non-parliamentary representatives to discuss the situation that has been come about in the country and a way out of it," Sarkissian said in a statement.

Although thousands of people have taken to the streets and rallied behind him, political forces in parliament loyal to protest leader Pashinyan hold only about 8 percent of seats.

However, the second biggest party in parliament said on Wednesday it was joining the protest movement and would encourage its supporters to take to the streets.

It was not immediately clear whether that signaled specific support for Pashinyan's candidacy or not.

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