Armenian police arrested dozens of people on Friday as hundreds of opposition supporters staged sit-ins and attempted to block road traffic in the capital city to protest ex-president Serzh Sargsyan‘s election as prime minister.
Many of the demonstrators waved national flags and held up placards reading “Sargsyan is a dictator.” Some attempted to block roads in response to repeated calls by the leader of the protests, opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan to paralyse traffic. Police said dozens of people were detained.
Since last Friday, opposition supporters have held rallies to denounce Sargsyan’s efforts to remain in power as prime minister after a decade serving as president.
Opposition parties have criticised the 63-year-old leader over poverty, corruption and the influence of powerful oligarchs in the country of 2.9 million people.
Back in 2008 when Sargsyan was first elected, protests lasted for 10 days before a state of emergency was imposed. These protests are more calm, but could be sustained for longer.
More Arrests In Yerevan As #Armenia Opposition Protests Resume https://t.co/RWN3uVz69B
— Eugene Chausovsky (@eugenechausovsk) April 20, 2018
The spokesman for Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party said the newly elected prime minister would not step down.
“We respects citizens’ right to freedom of assembly but we rule out the possibility of the prime minister resigning,” Eduard Sharmazanov told journalists late Thursday.
Human Rights Watch condemned the “arbitrary arrests” of demonstrators.
“One should not underestimate the challenges Armenia’s police are facing in maintaining law and order, but the ongoing protests are no justification to arbitrarily detain people,” it said in a statement.
Parliament elected Sargsyan as prime minister on Tuesday after he served a decade as president from 2008 under a new parliamentary system of government.
Controversial constitutional amendments approved in 2015 have transferred governing powers from the presidency to the premier.
In the biggest protest in Armenia in years, tens of thousands took to the streets over Sargsyan’s election as prime minister on Tuesday night but the number of demonstrators has since dwindled. Some 15,000 rallied in Yerevan on Thursday night.
Tens of thousands of Armenians gathered in Yerevan's Republic Square to denounce the parliament's election of Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister, just a week after he stepped down as president https://t.co/gWcvwP8WbZ pic.twitter.com/l2H1nmNLtd
— AFP news agency (@AFP) April 17, 2018