YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — The Armenian parliament spent Tuesday debating if an opposition lawmaker who led weeks of anti-government rallies should be named to replace the prime minister who resigned due to the protests.
Nikol Pashinian, who was the only candidate nominated for premier before a scheduled vote, told colleagues in parliament that Armenia would be roiled by a “political tsunami” if the majority party did not support him.
“I would like to warn you that your attempts to interpret the tolerance of the popular movement as weakness could cause unexpected and undesirable consequences,” Pashinian said, addressing members of the ruling Republican Party from the rostrum. “Get sober until it’s too late, because your behavior could cause a political tsunami.”
The National Assembly was in session for more than eight hours with no sign of when a vote would happen.
First, the lawmakers grilled Pashinian during a question-and-answer session. Later, dozens of them took the floor to speak about Pashinian’s candidacy.
Republican deputies accused Pashinian of exploiting the young people who have been his core supporters. Some said Pashinian does not have a program to offer the country.
Opposition members of parliament joined Pashinian in warning that a vote against him would be a vote against the tens of thousands of people who joined the anti-government rallies in recent weeks.
Pashinian led the protests that forced Serzh Sargsyan, who led Armenia as president for 10 years and was made prime minister in mid-April, to resign. The opposition in this Caucasus Mountains country saw Sargsyan’s move into the prime minister’s chair as an attempt by him to stay in power indefinitely.
While Pashinian is the only candidate for prime minister, the chamber is controlled by Sargsyan’s Republicans, and Pashinian needs their votes to win.
The Elk or “Exit” opposition alliance formally announced Pashinian’s nomination at the start of Tuesday’s parliament session. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people packed the square outside to show their support for Pashinian.
Protesters played folk music and waved the Armenian tricolor as the lawmakers’ meeting was televised on a giant screen.
“The only thing that people on this square will accept is Pashinian’s win, changes in the country and the ouster of the old clan,” said engineer David Babayan, 47, who came to the Republic Square with his wife and 10-year-old son.
Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.