Opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian is greeted by his supporters in Yerevan on Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Pashinyan has urged his supporters to block roads, railway stations and airports on Wednesday after the governing Republican Party voted against his election as prime minister. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Dramatic Day of Strike Actions and Civil Disobedience Across Armenia

YEREVAN — In a dramatic about face, the ruling Republican Party (HHK) indicated on Wednesday that it will not prevent opposition leader Nikol Pashinian form becoming Armenia’s prime minister when the parliament again discusses his candidacy on May 8.

Vahram Baghdasarian, who leads the ruling party’s deputies in parliament said the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) reached the decision in order to normalize the situation in the country in the midst of a general strike called by opposition leader Nikol Pashinian.

Baghdasarian made the announcement after HHK lawmakers met on May 2, a day after the party used its parliamentary majority to block Pashinian from becoming prime minister in an initial vote following the resignation from the post of the HHK’s longtime leader, Serzh Sarkisian.

Baghdasarian’s announcement also came minutes after opposition parties announced that Pashinian had secured the support of the minimum 35 lawmakers needed to be nominated as a candidate in the May 8 vote.

Pashinian and Tsarukian Alliance leader Gagik Tsarukian appeared together at a Yerevan press conference on May 2, where they announced that Tsarukian’s bloc would support Pashinian’s nomination.

Pashinian’s Yelk faction has nine seats in parliament and the Tsarukian Alliance has 31, giving him the support from more than a third of the 105-seat legislature.

The developments came after a dramatic day of strike actions and civil disobedience across Armenia, which Pashinian described as “unprecedented” in turnout.

Pashinian said there was “virtually no open road” in Yerevan and other cities after many thousands of people joined his call for a general strike in response to the May 1 parliament vote that denied him the prime minister’s post.

Hundreds of people blocked a major highway connecting the capital with the country’s main airport, prompting some passengers to walk with their suitcases to make their flights.

Several other major highways — including those leading to the Georgian and Iranian borders — were also blocked as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets.

But Pashinian, marching with a large group of demonstrators in Yerevan, called on his supporters to allow passage for all Defense Ministry and emergency vehicles and urged them not to block the army’s supply routes or the two strategic highways connecting Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.

He said the protests would continue until the government acknowledged the “people’s victory.”

Access to many subway stations in Yerevan was blocked, and railway traffic was reportedly halted.

“The entire railway is not working,” said Vardan Aloian, a spokesman for the Southern Caucasus Railway, the Russian news agency Interfax.

Security forces were visible in some places but there were no reports of them intervening in the demonstrations or blockages.

Elsewhere in Yerevan, large groups of students took to the streets again, with some of them heading for university campuses calling on all students to join the strike.

Students and schoolchildren in Masis, a town in Armenia’s Ararat Province not far from Yerevan, joined the general strike and were seen demonstrating in front of the city’s town hall.

In Vanadzor — Armenia’s third-largest city, some 110 kilometers to the north of the capital — protesters blocked the buildings of the mayor’s office and the regional governor’s office.

Residents of the town of Armavir, including striking winery workres, gathered in front of the regional governor’s office and demand that he join the “popular movement” or resign.

Reports of protests and civil disobedience actions are coming in from other cities and towns across Armenia.

Students and schoolchildren in Masis, a town in Armenia’s Ararat Province not far from Yerevan, joined the general strike and were seen demonstrating in front of the city’s town hall.

In Vanadzor — Armenia’s third-largest city, some 110 kilometers to the north of the capital — protesters blocked the buildings of the mayor’s office and the regional governor’s office.

Residents of the town of Armavir, including striking winery workers, gathered in front of the regional governor’s office and demand that he join the “popular movement” or resign.

There were also reports of the workers at many companies joining the call for a general strike.

Earlier on May 2, as Pashinian marched with supporters in Yerevan, President Armen Sarkisian called for talks to be held to resolve the crisis before the second parliamentary vote on May 8.

“I deeply regret that the political crisis continues despite the fact that everyone is talking about how dangerous it is for the future of the country,” Armen Sarkisian — who is not related to Serzh Sarkisian — said in a statement.

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