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Up In Smoke: Armenia Lawmakers Ignite Flares In Parliament To Protest Sarkisian Shift

Armenian Lawmakers Set Off Smoke Bombs In Parliament
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WATCH: Armenian Lawmakers Set Off Smoke Bombs In Parliament

Two opposition lawmakers in Armenia have ignited smoke flares in parliament to protest plans to elect former President Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister.

At the podium in parliament on April 11, Ararat Mirzoian of the opposition bloc Yelk (Way Out), called on Armenians to gather on Yerevan's Liberty Square on April 13 "in order not to allow Sarkisian to become prime minister."

"We have to finish with the rule of the Republican Party," Mirzoian said -- and then ignited a flare, which spewed sparks and sent a jet of thick yellow smoke toward the ceiling as he held it up like a torch.

His colleague, Lena Nazarian, approached the podium holding two ignited smoke flares -- one green and one yellow -- and the two stayed at the podium for about a minute until the flares were exhausted.

President Armen Sarkisian was inaugurated on April 9 amid speculation that outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian will become prime minister, a post that is now more powerful than the presidency due to constitutional reforms.

Armen Sarkisian, who is not related to Serzh Sarkisian, was elected to a seven-year term by lawmakers in the South Caucasus nation on March 2.

Opposition leaders have accused Serzh Sarkisian, who was first elected in 2008 and held office for two terms, of seeking the prime minister’s job to allow him to retain power.

Parliament is to elect a prime minister on April 17.

Under a shift that was approved in a December 2015 referendum, Armenia changed its form of government from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary republic.

As a result, presidential veto powers have been stripped from the post and the presidency has been downgraded to more of a figurehead position.

Unlike previous post-Soviet presidents in Armenia, Armen Sarkisian was elected by parliament instead of by popular vote.

The constitutional reforms that came into effect right after Armen Sarkisian was sworn in also limit the president to a single seven-year term.

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