Armenian opposition leader calls new rally for Wednesday

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A meeting due to take place Wednesday between Pashinyan and acting head of government Karen Karapetyan to discuss the transfer of power was cancelled, a spokesman for Pashinyan said Tuesday night without giving further details. It was not immediately clear whether this move would placate the protesters, who oppose the ruling elite as a whole.

Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia's former president who lawmakers voted in as prime minister just last Tuesday, announced on Monday that he will step down.

Waving the Armenian tricolor and chanting their leader's name, some 10,000 opposition supporters marched on Tuesday with protest leader Nikol Pashinian to a hilltop memorial complex in Yerevan, the capital of the Caucasus Mountains country, to mark the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago by Ottoman Turks.

But following a referendum in 2015, Armenia transitioned from an executive presidency with Sargsyan at the helm to a parliamentary system led by the prime minister and his Cabinet. Almost 200 people were detained, including Pashinyan who was "forcibly taken", The Guardian reported. The protests in Armenia have been mostly peaceful with some exceptions. Recognizing that many Armenians felt drawn to Europe, as well as his country's increasing trade ties with the European Union, in 2017 Sargsyan negotiated a substitute deal with Brussels to replace the Association Agreement he abandoned four years earlier.

"Early parliamentary elections will be held with the shortest possible delay", Pashinyan said, promising that they must be "absolutely free and democratic". The movement in the streets is against my tenure.

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With his fiery rhetoric and penchant for asking awkward questions, Pashinyan quickly became a thorn in the side of Sarkisian's ruling Republican Party.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it did not regard political tumult in Armenia, a close Russian ally, as a Ukraine-style revolution and was pleased that the situation there appeared stable for now.

Acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally of the ousted Sarksyan, called on the president to organize another meeting, where all political forces could participate. What happened on Monday in Yerevan, Armenia's capital, was a genuine expression of the will of the people. In fact, Armenia's foreign debt has tripled since 2008; instead of an agreement with the European Union, it joined the Eurasian Union without discussion or a demonstration of any tangible benefits for joining; the increasing brain drain has shrunk the population; 30% of Armenia's population lives below the poverty line; and in 2016, the escalation of the frozen conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh nearly exploded into full-scale war. Yet, the constitutional changes allowed him to transition from the position of president to prime minister, given the parliament (ruled by his party) would nominate and elect him.

"I don't know any country where a prime minister is chosen like that".

"We were able to achieve Serzh Sargsyan's resignation, and we will be able to keep Karen Karapetyan and the Republicans from their plans to seize the victory of the people", says Pashinyan.

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