YEREVAN (A.W.)—Earlier today, Armenia’s National Assembly elected former President Serge Sarkisian as Prime Minister of Armenia, with 76 votes in favor and 17 against. Sarkisian was supported his Republican Party (RPA), its coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), as well as more than a dozen lawmakers representing businessman Gagik Tsarukyan’s party, Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), though Tsarukyan himself did not attend the session.
The vote was boycotted by opposition Member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan and three other deputies from the Yelk (“Way Out”) alliance, who have been busy organizing mass demonstrations in the streets of Yerevan condemning Sarkisian’s continued rule of the country. Pashinyan, who is continuing the protests in spite of the election, is calling for a “velvet revolution” (a term referencing the nonviolent political transition in Czechoslovakia from communism to a Western-style democracy at the end of 1989). The remaining five Yelk parliamentarians attended the session, voting against Sarkisian.
In his address to parliament following his election, he thanked his party, the ARF, and notably, the Tsarukyan alliance for their support while being “opposition.” According to EVN Report’s coverage on the social media site Twitter, Sarkisian also thanked the Yelk Alliance in his speech, saying this is how a parliamentary system should work and will have many opportunities to work together, ease any political tension and become “good friends.” He also called on Yelk deputies to bring their colleague, Pashinyan, “from the street to the parliament. It will be your greatest achievement, because I have never been alone in our political power. We have seen a lot of blood, but even I have never had thirst for our enemy’s blood.”
Justifying his desire to continue leading the after 10 years as president, Sarkisian said that even if he were not elected as prime minister, his input would be such that he would be “running the country from behind the scenes.” That would mean dodging responsibility for government policies, he claimed.
The leader of the ARF’s parliamentary faction and head of the party’s political affairs Armen Rustamyan said that the ARF and the RPA have already laid the groundwork for a “just” Armenia, and that Sarkisian’s election as prime minister has “opened a new page for the dignified future” of the country.
Addressing the turmoil taking place on the streets, he said that if people were truly in protest, there would be millions of people in the streets, not just thousands, “you know full well how many people are taking part in these demonstrations.”
Armenian police have announced that they have detained 80 citizens, among them many students, including student activist Davit Petrosyan who was active during the Military Deferment Law protests last year.
Protests and demonstrations continue on the streets of Yerevan. Follow RFE/RL’s live stream below.
Editor’s Note: It’s important to highlight that in Armenian politics, the term “opposition” does not necessarily imply a subversive political unit that opposes the goals and agendas of the ruling party. In news reports, the term “opposition party” is used simply to denote parties which do not share a formal alliance, or coalition, with the ruling party.
In Praise of the New Prime Minister: Serge Sarkisian’s Achievements by Dr. Nerses Kopalyan.