Protesters in Yerevan, Armenia have closed down the France Square and the connecting central Avenues of Mashtots and Baghramyan on the evening of April 13. Following a demonstration at Yerevan’s Freedom Square, the roughly 5000 protesters closed the two avenues without much resistance from the police. They demand that Serzh Sargsyan not be nominated as Prime Minister.
Sargsyan recently finished his second term as the country’s president. Some view his nomination for the post of prime minister as an attempt to keep his grip on power. Critics had warned about this possibility before the constitutional changes were passed in a 2015 contentious election. The changes made the post of the prime minister stronger than that of the president’s.
The situation on the ground
– It is expected that on April 14, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia will nominate Serzh Sargsyan, the head of the party, for the position of prime minister. The Republican Party and its coalition member party, the Dashnaktsutyun, have the majority of the seats in parliament. This leaves little doubt that Sargsyan will not be elected if he is nominated.
– Three main forces are fighting against the scenario of Sargsyan becoming the country’s next Prime Minister. These movements are organized by the Civil Contract Party, headed by Member of Parliament (MP) Nikol Pashinyan; “Reject Serzh” civil society group; and “For the Sake of the Armenian State” civil society group.
– On March 31, opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan began a two-week nationwide walk to protest the potential nomination of Sargsyan. He traveled to seven cities, nearly 210 kilometers.
– The protesters have announced that they will rely only on peaceful means and are rejecting any use of force.
– In the center of Yerevan, the protesters who have closed the main avenues are singing and dancing. The atmosphere is similar to the 2015 Electric Yerevan movement during which demonstrators shut down Baghramyan Avenue, protesting a rise in the energy prices.
The new constitution
– In 2015 a constitutional referendum took place in Armenia, which was marked by widespread violations and bribery.
– Under the new constitution, Armenia has been transformed from a semi-presidential state to a parliamentary one.
– The critics of the constitutional changes argued that then-President Sargsyan initiated the change to keep his political power as prime minister once his second and last term as president ends.
– Responding to critics, Sargsyan made a public statement that he does not aspire to continue to lead the country after his term as president ends. However, now that the constitution has changed, Sargsyan seems to have also changed his mind.
– Supporters of Sargsyan say that it is in the interest of the state to nominate him.