Armenian Protest Leader Takes Power Under Russia's Shadow

Velvet Revolution

Velvet Revolution

Armenia's parliament on Tuesday elected opposition lawmaker and protest leader Nikol Pashinian as prime minister, marking a dramatic peaceful change in power after a weeks-long political crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered his congratulations to Nikol Pashinyan on assuming office as Armenia's Prime Minister, the Kremlin press service reported.

The vote will be Pashinyan's second attempt to get elected as premier after the ruling Republican Party narrowly blocked his first bid on May 1, despite initially promising not to stand in the way. When former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was named prime minister on April 17 of this year, Karapetyan served as deputy prime minister.

Though this vote lacked the drama of the previous week's - when the Republicans did not tip their hand about whether or not they would vote for Pashinyan - the ruling party nevertheless signaled that it did not intend to give up the fight.

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In the event of the parliament's rejection of the action plan, the elected PM resigns and new elections of PM take place.

After Sarkisian's resignation last month following ten days of peaceful protests, the opposition lawmaker said only he could be the next prime minister.

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

Small protests loosely organised around the slogan "No to Serzh" began in March. Within 20 days after forming the cabinet, the prime minister is to submit the government's action plan to the parliament for approval.

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Armenia is a country of about three million people nestled in mountains between Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. "You can absolutely compare him with historical figures like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela", said Eduard Aghajanyan, a city council member from Mr Pashinyan's Civil Contract party, and one of Mr Pashinyan's young, western-educated advisers.

He has publicly fallen out with other opposition leaders such as the former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. "However, if it turns out that they are ineffective, they will be discontinued", he said.

"Prime ministers will come and go", he told a rally in Yerevan. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2010 but was released the following year under an amnesty.

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