Armenia Sees Protests After Parliament Rejects Prime Minister
By Stefan J. Bos
Hundreds of people blocking a major highway connecting the capital Yerevan with Armenia's main airport forcing some passengers to walk with their suitcases to make their flights.
They are among thousands of people who have joined protests across the country in support of opposition leader Nikol Pashinian.
He called for a general strike after an overnight parliament vote denied him the prime minister's post.
Pashinian has warned the government that if it brings troops to the capital to quell protests "all the soldiers would come to join him and his supporters.
He said Wednesday that the ruling party was suicidal for using its parliamentary majority to reject his bid to become the next government leader.
Despite the setback, Pashinian says he is convinced of victory because the opposition parties and protesters support him. "Everyone's mood is very good. It is not a protest but a festival. And people are celebrating their victory," he told reporters while walking with demonstrators.
"Because for everyone it is clear that this is an inevitable victory. And there is no way to take this victory away from form the people. It is just a question of time. The victory is already existing," he said.
But the protests have underscored the political turmoil that has gripped this impoverished Caucasus Mountains nations since mid-April.
Mass anti-government rallies forced Armenia's long-time ruler Serzh Sargsyan to resign last week as prime minister just days after taking the post.
Sargsyan was the country's president for ten years before stepping down due to term limits.
He became prime minister amid a change in government structure that boosts the post's powers.
His critics said the shift would allow him to remain Armenia's leader indefinitely.
Pope Francis and Armenia
Pope Francis recently met then president Sargsyan and the three main Armenian church leaders to make clear that the country he visited in 2016 remains in his prayers.
He also recalled that more than a century has passed since the genocide of some 1.5 million mainly Christian Armenians who he called "martyrs for the name of Christ."
And with protests continuing and uncertainty about the government's response, the mainly Christian nation faces an uncertain future.