Armenia elects protest leader as prime minister

Armenia elects protest leader as prime minister

Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was elected Armenia's prime minister on Tuesday, capping a peaceful revolution driven by weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism in the ex-Soviet republic. That vote follows a concession in which the majority party said it would put forth a candidate itself, but would vote for whichever figure was nominated by a third of the deputies.

Protests were triggered after RPA chairman and Armenia's long-time leader Serzh Sargsyan who had been barred by the constitution from seeking another term as president became prime minister.

The founder and head of Civil Contract party and lawmaker from the Yelk bloc, Pashinyan led the street campaign, which saw hundreds of thousands of Armenians taking to the streets in massive protests in the past several weeks.

His creativity was visible during a parliamentary election campaign a year ago, when he went into courtyards, clambered onto the roofs of garages and stood on benches to deliver speeches.

Mr Pashinyan has however shown a deft political touch over the past month, running a gauntlet of thorny political questions including whether Armenia should maintain close ties with Russian Federation and whether there should be a purge of former ruling party officials and a criminal trial into the deaths of protesters in 2008.

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Pashinyan has promised to rid Armenia of corruption and poverty and is still the only candidate running for the PM's post.

That led to a crippling general strike in the capital Yerevan and other cities.

"Representatives of the party will not be members of the government". "However, if it turns out that they are ineffective, they will be discontinued", he said.

"We chose a new road in Armenia where the driver will be the people and not clans".

"Mr. Pashinian, you will be elected prime minister ..."

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

Armenia's new prime minister has suggested that he will push for recognition of the sovereignty of the Nagorno-Karabakh region - one of Armenia's most hard and volatile problems.

He went into hiding but surrendered in 2009.

Pashinyan, who was one of the main supporters of Ter-Petrosian, became a target for political presecutions and was forced to spend nearly 1.5 years "underground". He was released from jail in 2011 under a prisoner amnesty scheme and elected to parliament the next year.

Analysts have said it appeared the ruling party had changed position in a bid to retain control of the legislature.

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