YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Angry demonstrators blocked the entrances to the parliament building in Yerevan on Tuesday as an alliance of Armenian opposition parties tried to step up its campaign for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation.
The Homeland Salvation Movement already set up a tent camp on nearby Marshal Bagramyan Avenue on February 25 after the Armenian military’s top brass also demanded that Pashinyan and his cabinet step down.
Leaders of the alliance told supporters to also block adjacent Demirchyan Street, from which most lawmakers enter the parliament building, after it became clear that President Armen Sarkissian will not challenge the legality of Pashinyan’s decision to fire the country’s top army general.
Sarkissian appeared to have deliberately missed a legal deadline for asking the Constitutional Court to declare the decision null and void.
Vazgen Manukyan, a leader of the Homeland Salvation Movement, condemned Sarkissian’s stance as he addressed supporters on Marshal Bagramyan Avenue. “We don’t have a president,” he said before telling them to march to Demirchyan Street and blockade the parliament compound.
The protesters were confronted by hundreds of riot police guarding the main entrance to the compound. They pitched several tents at the blocked street section later in the evening.
Several opposition lawmakers stood in between the two sides to prevent violent clashes between them. The police clad in riot gear did not try to disperse the crowd.
“Do not succumb to provocations,” Ishkhan Saghatelyan, another opposition leader, told the protesters. “None of us is going to break through the National Assembly gate.”
“This is our civil disobedience action against this parliament,” he said. “We believe that this parliament has nothing to do.”
The opposition alliance blames Pashinyan for Armenia’s defeat in the war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10. It already staged a series of street protests later in November and in December in a bid to force him to resign. The alliance resumed the protests on February 20.
Pashinyan has rejected the opposition demands. He offered to hold snap parliamentary elections after the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff and 40 other senior officers issued on February 25 a joint statement also demanding his resignation.
The Homeland Salvation Movement says that the elections must be held by an interim government.