Armenian opposition on uncertain path to power: analysts

Yerevan (AFP) –


Armenia is in political crisis after popular protests brought down its prime minister, but analysts say the opposition has a tricky path ahead as it seeks to fill the current power vacuum.

Nikol Pashinyan, who led a wave of protests that virtually shut down the capital Yerevan and other cities, says he has the support of all political parties as parliament prepares to vote for a new prime minister next week.

But lawmakers narrowly blocked his bid to take the role in a vote on Tuesday, after the ruling Republican party rejected his candidacy despite initially promising not to stand in the way.

Independent analyst Stepan Safaryan said the situation had become more stable after the Republican leader in parliament on Wednesday said the party would back Pashinyan on his second attempt.

"But it's still too early to say that everything will go to plan," he told AFP.

The Republicans, however, would be unlikely to withdraw their support again after a similar move before this week's vote led to a general strike, Safaryan added.

If lawmakers fail to elect a prime minister for a second time, the legislature will be dissolved and elections called.

The country is certain to face early elections even if Pashinyan is approved as prime minister next week, analyst Vigen Akopyan told AFP.

"The question is when they will be. The interim government, supported by Nikol Pashinyan himself and all other interested parties, will be formed on a coalition basis," Akopyan said.

Safaryan warned that the 42-year-old opposition leader would have his work cut out in navigating the country's new political landscape as prime minister.

"Armenia is entering a rather interesting period of disequilibrium -- before the early elections Pashinyan must manoeuvre between the will of the people and the parliamentary ruling party, which he does not belong to and which and cannot start supporting him," he said.

Relying on massive popular support, Pashinyan in recent weeks piled pressure on the ruling party through an unprecedented campaign of civil disobedience, while the Republican Party demonstrated its tight control of the legislature.

The protests led to the shock resignation of Serzh Sarkisian, who had moved to the newly-bolstered role of prime minister after ten years as president.

Critics accused the government of corruption and failure to tackle widespread poverty in the tiny South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people.

The former defence minister said the use of force to crush protests would have been an option but added it was not his "style", in comments as he announced he was stepping down.

Akopyan said any bloodshed would now be unlikely, despite the ultimate outcome of the protest movement being far from certain.

"We've passed the stage when the use of force on the part of the authorities has been possible. The options now on the table are compromise solutions... both for the authorities and the opposition," he said.

On the streets of Yerevan on Thursday the mood was cautious but upbeat.

"The Republicans have no chance -- they've been sucking the blood from people for the last ten years," Artem Tovmasyan, a 55-year-old economist told AFP.

"Pashinyan is for the people and the people trust him. We've already had our revolution -- without death, without bloodshed."