Wave of protests sweeps new leader into power in Armenia


Armenian lawmakers elected opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister of Armenia.

The Armenian opposition leader who is almost certain to become the country's prime minister says he will not seek political revenge in the wake of the past month of tensions.

His election by a 59-42 vote on Tuesday overcomes one hurdle in resolving the crisis, but the Republican party that he opposed retains a majority in parliament.

Armenian-American rock star and political activist Serj Tankian joined a pro-opposition rally in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on May 7, appearing on stage alongside opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan before leading the crowd in song. He said his first priority was to organize the first fair parliamentary elections in many years.

But governance changes that in tandem bolstered the prime minister's office led to accusations that Mr Sargsyan had manipulated the constitution to cling to power.

Armenia, a small country in the Caucasus region straddling Europe and Asia, is a former Soviet republic bounded by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran.

"I am in a working mood, there is no sense of euphoria, just work to do", Mr. Pashinyan said.

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After the vote, Pashinyan headed to Republic Square, the center of the protest movement that brought him to the premiership. His aides said Karen Karapetyan, the prime minister from September 2016 until last month, and who is close to Russian Federation, had sought backroom deals to derail a vote last week for Mr Pashinyan to become PM, which he lost. "However, if it turns out that they are ineffective, they will be discontinued", he said.

"There will be no privileged people in Armenia". They included 13 lawmakers representing Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

"On the other hand, as the protest movement has shown, he can be flexible", he said.

Pashinian went into hiding following the deadly suppression on March 1-2, 2008 of post-election protests in Yerevan.

"The victory is not my being elected prime minister", he added. He surrendered to law-enforcement authorities in July 2009 and was subsequently tried and sentenced to seven years in prison on charges stemming from the unrest.

After the plebiscite, thousands of opposition supporters rallied against alleged mass violations at polling stations.