Yerevan (AFP) – Thousands of people rallied in Armenia’s capital on Wednesday to protest the election of former president Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister, viewed by the opposition as a power grab.
Police detained dozens of protesters who sought to block one of Yerevan’s major thoroughfares, an AFP reporter said.
Activists also massed outside Sarkisian’s residence earlier on Wednesday. They were protesting against the 63-year-old’s election to the post of prime minister after a decade serving as president from 2008.
Parliament voted in Sarkisian as prime minister on Tuesday, sparking the largest protest in Armenia in years, with tens of thousands taking to the streets.
Heeding a call from opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, protesters had held rallies over recent days to denounce a change in the political system that they say is a bid to ensure Sarkisian can remain in power.
A constitutional amendment approved in 2015 has transferred governing powers from the presidency to the premier.
The opposition denounced Tuesday’s parliamentary vote to make Sarkisian prime minister, saying the pro-Moscow politician lacked popular support.
Pashinyan has called for “a peaceful velvet revolution” and urged his supporters to set up “revolutionary committees” across the country.
Sarkisian, a former military officer, has been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people for a decade.
He also held the office of prime minister from 2007 to 2008.
The country’s new president, Armen Sarkisian, was sworn in last week but his powers will be weaker under the new system of government. Even though the two men share the same surname, they are not related.
Protests began in the capital Yerevan on Friday and have since spread to the country’s second and third largest cities, Gyumri and Vanadzor.
On Monday police used stun grenades against protesters who tried to break through a barbed wire cordon to get to the parliament building.
Authorities said 46 people, including six police and opposition leader Pashinyan, sought medical help.