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Tens Of Thousands Protest Outside Armenian Parliament Against 'Counterrevolutionary' Bill


Supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian protest outside the parliament building in Yerevan on October 2.

Tens of thousands of people have gathered outside Armenia's parliament building in Yerevan to protest against a bill that would make it more difficult for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to disband the legislature and call new elections.

The parliament earlier on October 2 passed the bill with the backing of lawmakers from the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the largest number of seats in the legislature.

The proposed legislation was also supported by the Tsarukian Alliance, which is mostly composed of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).

Following the vote, Pashinian signed decrees firing six BHK and Dashnaktsutyun members from their ministerial posts.

He also called on his supporters to protest against the adoption of the bill, and thousands quickly gathered outside the building of the National Assembly.

Addressing the rally, Pashinian urged President Armen Sarkisian not to sign the "counterrevolutionary" bill into law.

"They have waged a war against their people," he said, calling on his supporters to remain peaceful and not to prevent lawmakers from leaving the parliament compound.

The prime minister said he wanted elections to be held in the first half of December, adding that the composition of parliament did not reflect the country's political reality.

He later entered the building for talks with his political opponents.

WATCH: Live broadcast by RFE/RL's Armenian Service:

Meanwhile, Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman and a deputy parliament speaker, insisted that the bill was not aimed at preventing early elections, but meant to protect lawmakers against outside "pressures."

Speaking to reporters, Sharmazanov also accused Pashinian of interfering in the work of the legislature.

An opposition lawmaker, Pashinian took office in May after spearheading weeks of protests that forced the resignation of his predecessor.

He has pushed for early elections following his bloc's landslide victory in the mayoral race in Yerevan last month in a bid to unseat his political opponents, who have maintained a majority in parliament.

Snap general elections can be called in the South Caucasus country if lawmakers fail twice to choose a new prime minister and the legislature is dissolved.

Pashinian has said he was ready to resign to trigger this procedure and parliamentary elections could be held.

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