The two leaders representing a coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties met hundreds of supporters in Gyumri at the start of the tour. They admitted that protests staged by their Homeland Salvation Front following the Russian-brokered ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh failed to attract large crowds.
“I thought that that there are one million people in Yerevan and they all will take to the streets because they were humiliated, but people were so depressed and aggrieved … I know many people who cry at home but don’t bother to come out. We have a lot to do about that,” said Vazgen Manukian, a veteran politician who has been nominated by the opposition alliance to serve as a caretaker prime minister.
“Many people sitting at home are urging us to act more resolutely,” complained Ishkhan Saghatelian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a key member of the alliance.
“People must take to the streets, organize themselves and oust this government. There is no other option,” he said, adding that the alliance will also keep pressing pro-government lawmakers to stop supporting Pashinian.
“That Nikol will leave is a fact … He won’t avoid that. The question is when he will do that,” claimed Saghatelian.
The parties making up the alliance as well as other opposition groups hold Pashinian responsible for Armenia’s defeat in the recent war in Karabakh and want him to hand over power to an interim government that would hold snap parliamentary elections by the end of this year.
The prime minister has rejected the opposition demands backed by President Armen Sarkissian. He has dismissed the street protests against his rule as an “elite revolt” not backed by most Armenians.
A group of Pashinian supporters blocked a highway outside Gyumri in a bid to bar Manukian, Saghatelian and other opposition figures from entering Armenia’s second largest city. Police intervened to unblock the road.
Manukian, who had served as the country’s prime minister and defense minister in the early 1990s, labeled the protesters as “tramps” hired by Pashinian’s My Step bloc for cash.