Armenian opposition leader says ‘ready to lead’ country

Armenian opposition leader says ‘ready to lead’ country

Yerevan: Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday said he was ready to lead the country after the shock resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan following 11 days of protests against his rule.
“Yes of course we are ready to lead our country,” Pashinyan said at a news conference in Yerevan, after being asked whether he was ready to steer the government of the ex-Soviet South Caucasus country.
“If people will bestow on me this responsibility, I’ll assume the responsibility,” Pashinyan said.
Sargsyan on Monday stunned the country by standing down from his new post as prime minister. He had previously spent a decade in power as president and was accused of a blatant power grab by the opposition, who staged days of rallies in protest.
On Wednesday Pashinyan, the 42-year-old leader of the Civil Contract party, is set to meet the acting head of government Karen Karapetyan to discuss the transfer of power.
According to Armenian law, lawmakers in the parliament, where Sargsyan’s Republican Party have a majority, have a week to propose new candidates for PM and could hold a vote on May 2.
Pashinyan said on Tuesday that he is not ready to “negotiate” with Karapetyan and insisted that the only topic for talks was a “full and peaceful transfer of power.”
The new prime minister must be a “people’s candidate” and not a member of Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party, he stressed.
After this, “early parliamentary elections will be held with the shortest possible delay,” Pashinyan said, adding that they must be “absolutely free and democratic.”
Earlier Tuesday Pashinyan led tens of thousands of Armenians on a march to honour the hundreds of thousands of their kin who died during the 1915 events of World War I in commemorations that are a hugely emotional event.
Clutching a purple rose, the bearded Pashinyan, 42, led a huge crowd of supporters to a hilltop memorial, wearing his trademark khaki-coloured T-shirt and with a bandaged hand.
The acting head of government, Karapetyan, has appealed for unity after the wrenching political turmoil in a country locked in a simmering territorial conflict with Azerbaijan.
Russia – which has a military base in Armenia – appealed for stability but said it would not interfere.
Pashinyan on Tuesday said that Russia and Armenia are “friendly, brotherly countries, but that doesn’t mean there are no problems between us.”
‘Difficult phase’
Karapetyan thanked all political forces for heeding his call for unity.
“We are going through a difficult new phase in our history,” he said in a statement.
“Today we show the world that despite difficulties and unresolved domestic issues we are together and united.”