Thousands rally in Armenia to support opposition MP's premiership bid

Yerevan (AFP) –


Thousands of Armenians rallied on Monday in support of opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan, who is set to be elected prime minister after spearheading weeks of mass protests against the ruling party.

Chanting Pashinyan's name and waving Armenia's tricolour national flags, demonstrators filled central Yerevan's Republic Square.

"I am 95 percent sure that your candidate will be elected as prime minister tomorrow," Pashinyan told the cheering crowd. "Tomorrow... will be the day of the victory of Armenian citizens."

The hugely popular Pashinyan has in recent weeks piled pressure on the ruling party through an unprecedented campaign of civil disobedience that plunged the Moscow-allied nation into its most serious political crisis in years.

It led to the shock resignation of veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian, a week after he shifted to the newly-empowered role of prime minister after having served ten years as president.

Serj Tankian, the Armenian-American singer of the chart-topping California hard rock band System of a Down, who arrived in Yerevan from the United States in a show of support to Pashinyan, also addressed the rally on Monday evening.

"You managed to transform your anger and despair into a positive movement," he told demonstrators.

Tuesday's crucial vote in Armenian parliament 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.

That led to a crippling general strike in the capital and other cities.

Pashinyan called for an end to the protests after the Republicans issued assurances they would back his candidacy on a second attempt.

"I have no doubts whatsoever that Pashinyan will be elected tomorrow. The Republicans have no other choice," a 52-year-old demonstrator, Stella Amiryan, told AFP at the rally. "The Armenians now see light at the end of the tunnel."

Another demonstrator, 49-year-old Arman Shakaryan, said: "I am sure Pashinyan will become our prime minister tomorrow. The people can't stand anymore the Republicans' corrupt and mafioso-like government."