YEREVAN—Nikol Pashinyan, the leader of the popular movement that for almost three weeks has been demanding change called for a general strike on Wednesday and vowed to continue protests across Armenia, after the National Assembly on Tuesday failed to elect him as prime minister.
After the parliament session, which lasted about nine hours on Tuesday, Pashinyan headed to Yerevan’s Republic Square where he told a sea of thousands of supporters, who had gathered there since as early as 8 a.m. local time, and urged them to continue the peaceful protests that have been sweeping the country and resulted in the resignation of former prime minister Serzh Sarkisian last week prompting Tuesday’s extraordinary session to elect a new prime minister.
“Our counter-move against the action of the Republican faction will be very rapid. Tomorrow we will declare a general strike. We will block all the streets, communications, subways, train stations and the airports beginning at 8:15 in the morning,” Pashinyan, who was the only candidate for the premiership, told supporters after the parliamentary vote. “Our struggle cannot end in a failure.” He also called on students to boycott classes and continue their participation in the movement.
The late night rally capped a dramatic day in parliament, which had convened to elect him as prime minister. One by one Republican Party of Armenia members took to the parliament floor to declare their no confidence in Pashinyan citing mainly Russia-centric matters among them Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, about both of which Pashinyan has expressed his opposition in the past.
“They [the Republican Party of Armenia] wanted the people and the candidate of the people would panic, take provocative actions and organize attacks. But we are not engaged in acts of robbing ghosts. They may only be referring to the “political funeral” of the RPA,” Pashinyan told supporters on Tuesday.
In the end with businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance’s 29 votes, the Yelk factions nine votes and six votes from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Psshinyan received only 45 of the 53 votes needed to secure the prime ministership. The Republican Party of Armenia announced that its lawmakers would not support his candidacy. Only one Republican member, Feliks Tsolakyan broke ranks with his party and voted for him.
On the other end of the spectrum, head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation parliamentary faction, Aghvan Vardanyan, broke ranks with his party and announced from the dais that he would not support Pashinyan’s candidacy, prompting the ARF Supreme Council of Armenia to call for his immediate resignation from the parliament. Vardanyan did not take part in the vote.
Two members of the Tsarukian alliance did not attend the parliament session, with one Republican Party of Armenia member, Grigor Avalyan, announcing his resignation from parliament ahead of Tuesday’s session.
The National Assembly has seven days to convene another vote, which by all estimation will take place on Tuesday. If on that day the legislature fails to elect a prime minister, the parliament would have to organize snap parliamentary elections, under the Republican Party of Armenia’s leadership.