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Pashinian Tells Russia, U.S., EU, Georgia He's Working To Settle Crisis


A rally participant holds up an image of protest leader Nikol Pashinian on May 2.

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinian has met with the ambassadors of Russia, the United States, Georgia, and the European Union, and informed them that he is working to settle the country's political crisis.

"I informed the ambassadors about the agreements that have been reached on resolving the domestic crisis," he said in a statement on his Facebook page late on May 3.

"Several issues of bilateral relations were discussed as well. Meetings with ambassadors accredited in Armenia will continue," he said.

Pashinian was officially nominated for prime minister for a second time by his Yelk party and allied opposition parties in parliament earlier on May 3, and afterward received assurances from the ruling Republican Party (HHK) that it will support him as the "people's candidate."

Later on May 4, the Kremlin's press service said Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken by telephone with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev about "relevant regional and international issues, including Armenia."

Pashinian secured the backing of 41 lawmakers in the 105-seat parliament for his nomination to be prime minister, which leaves him as the only candidate to date for the post in an upcoming vote of parliament on May 8.

The HHK, which still holds a majority in parliament, voted against Pashinian in parliament's first vote on May 1, but Pashinian said the head of HHK's parliamentary faction, Vahram Baghdasarian, assured him in a meeting on May 3 that it will support him now that his candidacy has received the backing of more than one-third of lawmakers.

With those assurances, Pashinian urged his supporters to take a rest, stay in touch through Facebook, and be ready to return to the streets on May 8 to ensure parliament carries through on the HHK's pledge to make him the country's new leader.

Pashinian has led three weeks of antigovernment protests that forced Republican leader and former President Serzh Sarkisian to step down as prime minister just days after he was elected to the position by the parliament.

Sarkisian had been president for a decade, but term limits forced him to step aside last month. However, the HHK-dominated parliament quickly appointed him as prime minister, a switch made possible by constitutional changes that weakened the presidency while bolstering the prime minister's powers.

The move prompted thousands to heed Pashinian's call and to take to the streets, outraged that the new system would have allowed Sarkisian to remain Armenia's leader indefinitely.

The street protests culminated in a dramatic day of civil disobedience on May 2, the day after the parliament initially rejected Pashinian for prime minister, with tens of thousands of people blocking major roadways around the country, creating gridlock and paralyzing business activity.

It was amid those protests that the HHK announced its change in stance and effectively threw its backing behind Pashinian's candidacy in the May 8 vote.

Under Armenia’s constitution, if a prime minister is not elected in the second vote on May 8, parliament will be dissolved and early general elections will be held with the HHK-led acting government in charge of the electoral process.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Reuters, Interfax, and TASS
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