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Tens of thousands rally in Armenia as ex-president elected PM

Opposition protesters see appointment of Serge Sargisyan as an attempt to expand his rule.

ally in Armenia

Armenia's parliament has voted to appoint the country's former President Serge Sargisyan as prime minister, despite pressure from tens of thousands of protesters who accuse him of a power grab.

Members of parliament on Tuesday voted 77-17 in favour of Sargisyan's appointment, as demonstrators rallied in the capital, Yerevan, and several other cities for a fifth day against the move.

Sargisyan was president for a decade, and stepped down last week because of a term limit.

But Armenia's new constitution has made the presidency largely ceremonial and strengthened the office of prime minister, allowing Sargisyan to maintain his influence.

Maria Titizian, the editor-in-chief of EVN Report, an Armenian online magazine, said Sargisyan had promised before a 2015 referendum on constitutional reforms that he would not seek the post of the prime minister.

"But in fact on April 9, when his second and final term as president ended, his party, the Republican Party of Armenia nominated his candidacy and today in a vote in parliament he was elected as prime minister, effectively giving him a third term as leader of the country," she said from Yerevan.

Titizian also said at least 80 people protesting against Sargisyan's appointment were detained by the police.

The protesters' leader, opposition politician Nikol Pashinian, declared what he called a "velvet revolution" and urged demonstrators to keep besieging government ministries, the prosecutor's office, the Central Bank and other official buildings.

Sargisyan, a former military officer who also held the office of prime minister in 2007-2008, has effectively been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million since winning a presidential vote in 2008.

The constitutional amendments were passed after a referendum in December 2015, with some 63 percent of the voters backing the changes.


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