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Armenia parliament sets new date for electing prime minister

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 leader and the only candidate for the post of prime minister Nikol Pashinyan gives a speech at the extraordinary session of parliament to elect a new prime minister in Yerevan on May 1, 2018. (AFP photo)

Armenia’s parliament has announced that it would hold a new session to elect the country’s prime minister after a first bid failed due to lack of support in the chamber for the main opposition candidate, Nikol Pashinyan.

The press service of the Armenian parliament said Wednesday that a new vote for the post of prime minister would be held on May 8.

The announcement came a day after Pashinyan failed to receive the 53 votes he required to secure a majority in the 105-seat parliament which is filled with lawmakers of the ruling Republican Party of resigned president Serzh Sargsyan.

Pashinyan led weeks of street protests in capital Yerevan that forced Sargsyan, Armenia’s president for the past 10 years, to resign as prime minister. Sargsyan’s election to the post intensified the political unrest in Armenia, with tens of thousands taking to the streets, accusing him of trying to cling to power as a prime minister with extended powers based on Armenia’s 2015 amendments to the constitution.

Pashinyan had vowed before the Tuesday vote that parliament’s failure to elect him as the only candidate would only escalate the situation. Protesters shut down Yerevan on Wednesday, as demanded by Pashinyan, saying they will continue with their campaign of civil disobedience until the ruling elite gives up power.

Pashinyan was not yet sure whether he would re-submit his candidacy for premiership to the parliament.

“I can’t tell you now, it will depend on the specific situation,” he said, adding, “We will think and negotiate.”

Under Armenia’s law, if the parliament fails again to elect a new prime minister with majority support, general elections must be held.

Pashinyan, a 42-year-old former journalist who spent two years in jail for fomenting unrest after the presidential election in 2008, was a relatively unknown political figure until he emerged on the streets. He is believed to have held negotiations with Russian authorities, Armenia’s main ally which has sided with the landlocked country of around three million in a territorial dispute with neighbor Azerbaijan over the past years.  

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