Armenian opposition leader calls new rally for Wednesday

Armenian opposition leader calls new rally for Wednesday

YEREVAN: The Armenian opposition leader who helped force the country’s prime minister to resign called on supporters to stage a rally on Wednesday after planned talks with the ruling Republican Party were canceled.

Serzh Sarksyan, who previously served as Armenia’s president for a decade, resigned as prime minister on Monday after almost two weeks of street protests prompted by accusations he had manipulated the constitution to cling to power.

“The Republican Party is thinking about taking advantage of Serzh Sarksyan’s resignation and wants to keep power,” opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan said in a video appeal posted on his Facebook page after he led thousands of people on a march on Tuesday.

“We can’t agree on the appointment of this party’s representative as prime minister and we can’t allow this corrupted system to continue to exist,” he said, urging supporters “to come to the square and finish the velvet revolution.”

Pashinyan played a key role in ousting Sarksyan, organizing many of the protests and calling for the premier to go in a televised exchange before being jailed and then released. He had been set to start talks with the ruling party on Wednesday, but they were canceled late on Tuesday.

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

Acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally of the ousted Sarksyan, called on the president to organize another meeting, where all political forces could participate.

“Being concerned by the current situation. ... I’m calling on the president to organize the meeting ... with the participation of parliamentary and non-parliamentary political forces,” Karapetyan said in a statement posted on his website.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, another ally of the ex-premier, was sworn in as president earlier this month after being elected by parliament.

Under a revised constitution approved in a 2015 referendum, most state powers shifted to the prime minister while the presidency became a largely ceremonial post. 

The opposition and ruling party could not agree on an agenda or format for Wednesday’s meeting, although Karapetyan said one of the topics at a rescheduled session could be holding early parliamentary elections, something Pashinyan was insisting on. Reuters/AFP

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