Protests swell as National Assembly confirms nomination of prime minister

Peaceful Assembly

For five days now, the Armenian political opposition has mobilised on the streets of Yerevan and in other cities across the country to protest Serzh Sargsyan's candidacy for prime minister, which was confirmed by the parliament on 17th April. The news was followed by fresh clashes between protestors and police on the streets of Yerevan.

Opposition leaders have condemned the move as a "power grab", as shortly after the March 2018 presidential election, former president Serzh Sargsyan confirmed his intentions to run for post of prime minister. There is discontent among the opposition in how domestic and foreign affairs have been run under his tenure. Concerns over a power grab stem from 2015 constitutional reforms which changed the procedure for electing the prime minister and also granted greater powers to that office. The April 2017 parliamentary elections secured a victory for Sargsyan's Republican Party, paving the way for his continuation in power.

News portal CivilnetAm reported that opposition leader and Member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan encouraged people to continue their protests until 17th April, when the National Assembly elects the the new prime minister. Several civic groups and students have also joined the protest and the numbers of people have swelled to the thousands, the protest growing in size each day. 

On 16th April, the protests reached a boiling point when police and protesters clashed. Demonstrators faced tear gas and other acts of aggression from security forces. Approximately 50 people needed medical treatment, including six police officers. According to media sources, protest leader Nicol Pashinyan was injured and needed medical care but he remained undeterred, later returning to the protest. The main part of the protest has taken place in France Square, but at the time of writing, demonstrators had closed off nearly all major streets in the center of Yerevan and temporarily shut down traffic on some bridges, including Victory Bridge which leads to Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport. 

The CIVICUS Monitor and its research partner will continue to monitor the situation to document any violations of the right to peaceful assembly as the protests enter their fifth day, and especially as the situation remains uncertain and potentially volatile with Sargsyan's position secured as PM in today's election in the National Assembly. 

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