Armenia opposition leader nominated for PM

Yerevan (AFP) –


Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan on Monday was formally nominated for the post of prime minister by his supporters, inching closer to victory after two weeks of mass protests that transformed the country's political landscape.

The leader of the protest movement that ousted the country's veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian last week, Pashinyan is the only candidate in the running for the premiership and insists that only he can rid Armenia of corruption, poverty and nepotism.

However he still needs a handful of votes from the ruling Republican Party -- which has a majority of seats in parliament -- to seal his victory in a vote by lawmakers on Tuesday.

The party headed by ousted prime minister Sarkisian has yet to announce its official stance on the vote, even though a senior lawmaker, Vahram Baghdasaryan, has said it would not stand in the way of Pashinyan's candidacy.

Pashinyan announced the nomination by his Elk coalition, speaking to journalists in parliament where he was engaged in "consultations with all political factions."

"We are facing the task of resolving the political crisis in the country," he said.

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital Yerevan on Sunday, hoping that a massive show of strength would propel their leader to power in the crucial parliamentary vote.

"Looking into your eyes, I can say that yes, I am ready -- with a great sense of responsibility -- to assume the prime ministerial duties," he told the ecstatic crowd Sunday evening.

On Saturday, after days of frantic negotiations, two major parties including the Prosperous Armenia -- which has 31 seats in parliament -- said they would back Pashinyan.

The 42-year-old former newspaper editor is still six votes short of the 53 he needs from the 105-seat legislature.

Last week, Sarkisian resigned from his new post of prime minister after serving as president for a decade in the face of peaceful protests.

The protest movement had accused him of a power grab, saying he had failed to tackle a litany of problems like corruption, poverty and the influence of oligarchs.

Observers said that Sarkisian's resignation sounded the death knell for the seemingly unshakable rule of the Republican Party which dominated the ex-Soviet republic's politics for over a decade, unchallenged by weak and divided opposition forces.

The European Union expressed its support to Armenia in "its efforts to build a prosperous and democratic society."

"It remains crucial that all parties involved, including the law enforcement agencies and those exercising their right of freedom of assembly and expression, show restraint and responsibility," said a statement by the Delegation of the European Union.