Hours after forcing Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian to resign, opposition leader Nikol Pashinian said on Monday that he will meet with Armenia’s new and acting premier, Karen Karapetian, on Wednesday for talks on a “transfer of power to the people.”
Pashinian said they will discuss, among other things, the holding of fresh parliamentary elections in the “shortest possible logical period of time.”
The leader of the protest movement made the announcement as tens of thousands of people rallied in Yerevan’s Republic Square to celebrate the resignation of the man who has ruled Armenia for the last ten years. “The first phase of our popular velvet revolution is over,” he declared.
Karapetian took over as Armenia’s top government official at an emergency meeting held following Sarkisian’s resignation. “Ongoing political development must not affect our normal work in any way,” he told ministers. “I am calling on our fellow citizens and political forces to show utmost vigilance and respect for the law and rights of other citizens.”
In remarks publicized by the government’s press office, Karapetian made no mention of the elections demanded by Pashinian.
It is unclear whether Sarkisian will also resign as chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds the majority of seats in the parliament. Karapetian is the party’s first deputy chairman.
In his speech, Pashinian warned Sarkisian against trying to maintain his hold on power from behind the scenes. “I hope that the HHK leadership will explicitly and unconditionally recognize the victory of the popular velvet revolution,” he said.
The Armenian constitution gives parliamentary parties seven days to propose candidates for prime minister. The HHK’s parliamentary leader, Vahram Baghdasarian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that his party expects to nominate the next premier as well.
Baghdasarian declined to speculate about possible candidacies. He said the party leadership will make a decision after Karapetian’s talks with Pashinian and other political leaders.
For its part, the HHK’s junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), expressed hope that Armenia’s leading political groups will agree on an “agenda that would include a timetable and a roadmap for rapid reforms necessary for the country.”
Meanwhile, other opposition parties hailed Sarkisian’s exit. Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) said it paves the way for the “establishment of democracy in the country.” The HAK too called for a “smooth transfer of power.”
Pashinian also reached out to those Armenians who might feel threatened by Sarkisian’s ouster. “I want to appeal to entrepreneurs who are worried about this political process and … may be packing up to leave the country or remove capital from Armenia,” he said. “Please do not do that because there will be no vendettas, no hatred, no revenge.” He vowed to strive for an “atmosphere of national unity.”
Pashinian was also anxious to deny any “geopolitical” implications of the unfolding regime change in Yerevan. In that context, he described as “very important” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman’s reaction to the dramatic events in Armenia.
“Armenia, Russia is always with you!” the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, wrote on Facebook.
“I hope there will be similar reactions from other key representatives of the international community,” said Pashinian.