Yerevan protests gaining momentum (VIDEO)
The situation in central Yerevan is gradually heating up on the eve of the National Assembly's meeting, at which the elections of Armenia's Prime Minister will be held.
The opposition seeks to derail the parliamentary vote on the country’s new prime minister, which is scheduled to begin at 12.00 local time (11.00 Moscow time). The protests are aimed at preventing former president Serzh Sargsyan from assuming the position of prime minister.
Traffic at some streets was paralyzed as activists have erected barricades of cars, benches and dumpsters. Protesters have also set up a tent camp at the France Square in Yerevan.
Traffic jams, caused by the protests, triggered sporadic clashes between drivers and activists and at least one mass brawl.
Leader of Armenia’s Civil Contract opposition party Nikol Pashinyan called for massive and total civil disobedience and what he called ‘network blockade’ of the parliamentary building.
"We will not let the vote on the prime minister’s candidacy to take place, we will block all ways leading to the parliament to keep lawmakers out of the building," Pashinian said.
Pashinyan called on opposition activist to surround government buildings throughout the country, including ministries, mayor’s offices, city and village administrations.
"We need to block the entrances, go inside and declare strikes, but everything must go peacefully, we should refrain from any kind of violence or damage to property," ARKA cited him as saying. Pashinyan also called to block the movement of public transport, the work of the underground.
He also said that about 30 of his supporters had been taken into custody during clashes with the police. "About three dozen of our supporters are currently at police stations. I call on their friends and relatives to block the capital’s streets and avenues rather than going to the police," Pashinyan said.
The police press service has confirmed the detention.
Armenian health authorities said 46 people - including 6 police officers - sought medical help after a clash between opposition activists and riot police in Yerevan yesterday.
Police used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters, who tried to break through a barbed wire cordon in Yerevan.
According to the health ministry, part of citizens, having received out-patient treatment, were discharged from hospitals. They had injuries of the lower extremities. Police officers were injured with blunt and cutting objects. One of the policemen was operated on because of a vein injury.
Armenia has gone through a constitutional reform to turn the country from a presidential republic into a parliamentary one. The president will become a ceremonial head of state, who will be appointed by parliament and whose authority will be purely representative.
In line with the country’s new constitution, the prime minister will become the head of the executive branch with vast powers, including to determine the general guidelines of the government’s policy. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia nominated Serzh Sargsyan, whose 10-year presidential tenure expired on April 9, to the post.