Thousands rally as Armenia protest leader warns of 'political tsunami'

President Armen Sarkissian

Thousands rally as Armenia protest leader warns of 'political tsunami'

The Armenian parliament has voted against naming protest leader Nikol Pashinian as the country's new prime minister.

Serzh Sargsyan, who ruled the country for ten years before moving into the prime minister's seat, surprised many when he stepped down Monday amid massive anti-government protests.

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan attends a rally after his bid to be interim prime minister was blocked by the parliament in Yerevan, Armenia May 1, 2018.

Baghdasarian's announcement and the vote was assailed by angry shouts and waving fists from thousands of people who stood in central Yerevan's Republic Square throughout the day watching the parliamentary proceedings on a large screen television.

Pashinyan has pledged to keep Armenia close to Moscow, saying the changes he wants to make would instead focus on rooting out graft.

Party officials said over the weekend that Republican lawmakers would vote as a bloc, leaving uncertain prospects for Pashinian. The Republican Party has not nominated its candidate.

However, as a debate unfolded in parliament to discuss Pashinyan's candidacy for the vacant prime minister's post, it became clear the ruling elite was not willing to surrender power.

The bombshell follows two weeks of protests following the resignation of prime minister Serzh Sargsyan. "Or else the protests will continue, and nobody can predict their consequences", Erik Arutyunian, 47, said. The opposition saw the move as aimed at keeping Sargsyan in power indefinitely.

The opposition Yelk faction announced that their candidate for PM is Nikol Pashinyan. Some said Pashinian doesn't have a political platform to offer the country.

"Looking into your eyes, I can say that yes, I am ready - with a great sense of responsibility - to assume the prime ministerial duties", Pashinyan announced in an address before the overjoyed protesters.

Vadz Ghazaryan, an IT professional who immigrated to Canada from Armenia in 2014, said the protests have transformed the political landscape in his homeland, giving people hope that the corrupt political system led by the Republican Party can finally be reformed.

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