Opposition leader named new Armenian prime minister

Armenia & Karabakh Velvet Revolution        Velvet Revolution Update

Armenia's parliament on Tuesday elected opposition lawmaker and protest leader Nikol Pashinian as prime minister, marking a dramatic peaceful change in power after a weeks-long political crisis.

In the second round of vote in the 105-seat parliament, 59 lawmakers backed Pashinyan's candidacy, with 42 voting against and four absent.

Armen Sarkissian signed a decree earlier on Tuesday to appoint Nikol Pashinyan as Armenia's Prime Minister.

Addressing the parliament before the vote, Pashinian pledged to implement "very serious reforms" that would democratize Armenia, strengthen the rule of law and radically improve the domestic business environmental.

Parliament met again on Tuesday to choose a leader, and this time Mr. Pashinyan prevailed. The protests were initially limited to opposing former president Serzh Sargsyan's appointment as prime minister, but their demands later expanded to include a new government from outside the ruling Republican Party, and new elections to be held under a new electoral code.

Numerous supporters are wearing white clothes, symbolizing their hopes that Pashinian's election will bring a new page in Armenia.

"The spring of liberation has come to Armenia", one Pashinyan supporter, 56-year-old Sona Paremuzyan, told AFP in Yerevan.

"This is a remarkable shift in Armenian politics", said Laurence Broers, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank's Russian Federation and Eurasia program, adding: "The desire for change is coming from within". Pashinyan, who led the peaceful "Velvet Revolution", promised MPs that human rights would be protected, and that corruption and election-rigging would end. "People want to protest now against the mayor of Yerevan", he said.

Pashinian, is a former journalist who edited Armenia's best-selling daily newspaper, "Haykakan Zhamanak", from 1999-2012.

As required by the Constitution, a new government must be formed within 15 days after electing a Prime Minister. "And for me, my goal isn't to become prime minister". However, after six days in power, he was ousted amid mass protests on April 23.

"The Republican Party has made the political decision to support the candidate nominated ... for the sake of stability in our country", said Vahram Bagdasaryan, the head of the Republicans' faction in parliament, in a speech before the vote.

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