What’s going on in Armenia and why does it matter

2 minute read.

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Armenia’s Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan stepped down just six days after he was sworn in and backed his political rival to succeed him.

Having served 10 years as Armenia’s President, Sargsyan left office last month only to be elected Prime Minister by the country’s parliament dominated by his Republican Party. After a 2015 referendum, Armenia shifted more powers from the presidency to parliament.

A protest march going from village to village, towards the capital Yerevan started by Opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan, grew into widespread demonstrations demanding Sargsyan’s removal.

Pashinyan called on Sargysan to appoint “the people’s Prime Minister”, in a clear reference to himself. He has a colourful political history and has faced libel charges, prison sentences, and an assassination attempt for his political activism over the years.

The revolutionary was finally received by Sargysan for talks but negotiations collapsed and he was detained, fanning popular unrest. The following day, on April 23, the Opposition politician was freed while Sargsyan resigned.

Fresh elections in parliament a week later rejected Pashniyan, even though he was the only candidate. Consequently, the country went into general strike until the Republican MPs agreed they would vote for Pashniyan in today’s elections.

A country of less than 3 million, Armenia has close relations with Russia. Yerevan is locked in a long-standing conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, an Armenian majority region that falls within the Azeri borders. Russia has a base in Armenia, which forms part of Mosow’s collective security organisation as well as its Eurasian economic union.

The successful popular uprising in Armenia is unprecedented in a former Soviet state. Russia has, nonetheless, kept away from interfering in the affairs while newly re-elected President Vladimir Putin congratulated Mr Pashinyan.

The new Prime Minister of Armenia said that relations with the Kremlin would be a priority, particularly military cooperation.

Source: BBC, The Guardian

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