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Pashinian Supporters Rally In Yerevan On 100th Day In Office


Thousands Of Pashinian Supporters Rally In Yerevan
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YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has rallied tens of thousands of supporters in central Yerevan's Republic Square to mark his first 100 days in office, calling it a "demonstration of national unity."

Pashinian, who came to power unexpectedly in May after organizing massive anticorruption protests, earlier on August 17 led marchers to a street where he said he had been "kidnapped" by security forces during one of the street demonstrations in April that led to the eventual resignation of then-Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.

Pashinian was briefly arrested during the antigovernment protests earlier this year, only to be released and eventually elected to the premiership by a parliament still controlled by the ruling Republican Party.

Pashinian has vowed to speed up the pace of reforms in the country, and he told the crowd at Republic Square that the government would soon reduce the number of ministries and bureaucrats.

He also urged the large Armenian diaspora to contribute to the country's economic health.

"I call on our compatriots living abroad to invest in Armenia. I assure you that Armenia is a country of law," he said.

Pashinian also defended his government's track record during its first days in office, touting its crackdown on corruption and the establishment of people's "direct rule" in the country.

"One hundred days ago, your will prevailed and the international community still does not understand what happened in Armenia, why, and how it happened," Pashinian told the crowd, describing himself as a "direct representative of the will of the Armenian people."

"In Armenia, supreme power directly belongs to the people, and the people carry out direct rule. This is the key meaning of the revolution that took place in Armenia," he said in a speech that lasted more than one hour.

During a live broadcast on Facebook earlier in the day, the 43-year-old reformist said there were no longer "dividing lines" in the South Caucasus country.

"This is going to be a demonstration of national unity, because there are no dividing lines today -- the police, the National Security Service, the public, the people, the army, the armed forces, the state government bodies, the government are all on the same side, and no line divides us today," he said.

Pashinian urged all citizens to maintain public order and not to respond to possible aggression from possible "implanted" troublemakers.

He also told the crowd he was planning a speech later on August 17 in which he would address issues that have come up during his first days in office along with his plans for the future.

Kocharian Case

Since Pashinian's assumption of office, law enforcement bodies have carried out a number of high-profile actions involving former leaders and those connected to them.

Former President Robert Kocharian was charged with "overthrowing the constitutional order" for actions during unrest after the 2008 presidential election that left 10 people dead.

Kocharian, 63, was arrested in July and held briefly, but he was released on August 13 on the orders of an appeals court in Yerevan, which cited an article in the constitution that states a president cannot be prosecuted for "actions deriving from his or her status."

The head of the Special Investigative Service (SIS), Sasun Khachatrian, on August 16 said the authorities would challenge the court ruling, calling it "illegal," and would attempt to have Kocharian rearrested.

Khachatrian also said Sarkisian would be questioned as part of the investigation into the 2008 postelection crackdown against protesters.

Pashinian told the rally that everyone responsible for violating the country's constitution during the "bloody" events of March 2008 would be punished.

Longtime ally Moscow last month strongly criticized the criminal charges brought by the government against the former Armenian officials for their alleged role in the 2008 protests, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov describing them as politically motivated.

Pashinian said, though, that ties with Moscow had not been damaged.

"I can say for sure that Russian-Armenian relations are not only not bad but...are good and will get even better," he said.