Monday 21 May 2018

Opposition leader named new Armenian prime minister

Nikol Pashinian’s election by parliament follows weeks of peaceful protests during the country’s recent political upheavals.

Nikol Pashinian has been named Armenian prime minister (AP)
Nikol Pashinian has been named Armenian prime minister (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Armenia’s parliament has elected opposition MP Nikol Pashinian as the country’s new prime minister.

Mr Pashinian had spearheaded weeks of largely peaceful protests that gripped the country during a time of political turmoil.

His election by a 59-42 vote overcomes one hurdle in resolving the crisis, but the Republican party he opposed retains a majority in parliament.

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Mr Pashinian's supporters take to the streets (AP)

Mr Pashinian has suggested that he will push for recognition of the sovereignty of the Nagorno-Karabakh region – one of Armenia’s most difficult and volatile problems.

The Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994. Fighting periodically breaks out between those forces and Azerbaijani troops stationed on the other side of a demilitarised zone.

In a speech to parliament preceding his election as premier, Mr Pashinian said that his “revolution will lead to the de-jure recognition of realising the rights of Karabakh to self-determination”.

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Mr Pashinian speaks during a parliament session (AP)

Any move to advance the region’s sovereignty would likely be met with considerable hostility from Azerbaijan and its ally, Turkey. Both those countries closed their borders with Armenia over the conflict, leaving Armenia with direct land access only to Georgia and Iran.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands Mr Pashinian’s supports are celebrating on the central square of Armenia’s capital Yerevan.

Many of the supporters are wearing white clothes, symbolising their hopes that Mr Pashinian’s election will bring a new page in Armenia.

“We chose a new road in Armenia where the driver will be the people and not clans. Jobs will appear, people will return, corruption will disappear,” said demonstrator Tigran Azizian, a 42-year-old worker in the city’s subway.

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People cheer in Republic Square in Yerevan (AP)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has congratulated Mr Pashinian.

Mr Putin said in a telegram to Mr Pashinian after his election that he counts on him to “aid the further strengthening of bilateral, allied relations between our countries”.

Russia has strong strategic interests in Armenia, including a military base, and had been watching the country’s political turmoil closely.

Mr Pashinian has repeatedly said that he would not seek to change Armenia’s co-operation with Russia.

Press Association

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