Pashinyan demands 'unconditional capitulation' of Armenia's ruling party as protests continue

Artyom Geodakyan  TASS

Artyom Geodakyan TASS

Moscow has two military bases in the ex-Soviet republic, and the Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke to the Armenian president Armen Sarkissian by phone on Wednesday.

Armenia's parliament will elect a new prime minister on May 1, state media reported on Thursday, following Serzh Sargsyan's surprise resignation on April 24, amid street protests.

Nikol Pashinyan, the charismatic leader of the opposition who has called for the country to root out corruption and voter fraud, appeared the favourite to be elected to the role of prime minister.

The ruling party has retained its majority in parliament - with 58 seats in the 105-seat parliament - but is facing pressure to hand power over to opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian following the protests that triggered Sargsyan's resignation.

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The Russian embassy in Yerevan said Wednesday that its officials had met with Pashinyan.

On Thursday, the Republican Party reiterated its readiness to discuss "any issues" without preconditions and declared that former prime minister Serzh Sargsyan would be replaced as the party's chairman. "My goal is bring real changes to Armenia".

The ruling Republican Party has given consent to an early parliamentary election but it dismisses the demands to make the opposition forces' leader the next prime minister as unconstitutional ones. Pashinian has said he is prepared to be a candidate, but it is unclear if he will get support.

"If I am not elected prime minister, then Armenia will not have a prime minister at all", said the 42-year-old former newspaper editor.

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Pashinyan called a temporary halt to protests across the country and said he was willing to hold talks with acting head of government Karen Karapetyan on Friday in front of journalists.

"In case the Republican party dares to nominate a candidate, the people will immediately surround the parliament", he said.

But police later abandoned efforts to clear streets in the centre, saying it could not take sides in a political crisis. "No one can deny this new reality".

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