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Thousands Crowd Central Yerevan Ahead Of Prime Minister Vote

Thousands of protesters in the square in central Yerevan.
Thousands of protesters in the square in central Yerevan.

YEREVAN -- Thousands of people have jammed into a central square in the Armenian capital, protesting new government changes that could keep former President Serzh Sarkisian in power.

The demonstration is linked to a major constitutional change approved several years ago that weakened the president's powers and strengthened those of the prime minister.

Opposition activists assert that the changes were tailored specially to allow Sarkisian to continue after his two terms as president ended.

Armen Sarkisian, no relation to Serzh, became Armenia's new president on April 9. But Serzh. whose party holds a majority in parliament, is to be nominated to be prime minister this weekend.

The change in the governing system was approved in a referendum in 2015. Unlike previous post-Soviet presidents in Armenia, Armen Sarkisian was elected by parliament instead of by popular vote.

Protest leaders have vowed to hold demonstrations outside the building where Sarkisian is expected to be nominated.

Earlier this week, two opposition lawmakers set off smoke flares in parliament to protest plans for Serzh Sarkisian to become prime minister.