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Armenians rally en masse after ex-president elected PM

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Armenian opposition supporters scatter during clashes with police at a rally in central Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, on April 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Tens of thousands of people in Armenia have taken to the streets in the capital, Yerevan, to protest the election by the parliament of former president Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister.

The rally was led by opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan on Wednesday. Protesters were holding Armenian flags and were chanting “Armenia without Serzh!” They also blocked major streets and bridges. 

“We must not allow Armenia’s transformation into an autocratic country where the same man remains in power for an indefinite time,” said one protester.

People rally against the election of former president Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister during a protest in the capital, Yerevan, on April 18, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Sargsyan “lied to Armenians and broke his earlier promise not to become prime minister after his presidential term expires,” said another protester.

A crowd also amassed outside Sargsyan’s residence earlier in the day.

Dozens of protesters have so far been detained and charged by the police, and several dozen others have been wounded in clashes with security forces.

People have been protesting over the matter in Yerevan since Friday. The parliament, however, elected Sargsyan as the new prime minister on Tuesday, sparking the largest protest in the country in years: the one on Wednesday.

Protests were also held in the country’s two other major cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor.

An Armenian protester shouts in front of barbed wire and police officers standing guard behind their shields during a dispersal of a rally in central Yerevan, on April 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Sargsyan, 63, has been in charge of the nation for a decade. He served the maximum two terms in office as president from 2008. He had also held the office of the prime minister from 2007 to 2008.

Armenia’s revised constitution has made the presidency largely ceremonial but strengthened the office of the prime minister, allowing Sargsyan to maintain his influence.

The constitution was approved by a referendum in 2015. Back then, Sargsyan promised that he would not seek the post of the prime minister.

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