Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan tendered his resignation on Monday after mass protests erupted across the small Caucasus country. Protests took place across the country, with 50,000 protesters demonstrating together in the streets of the national capital, Yerevan.
On Sunday night, opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan met with Sargsyan. Sargsyan quickly left, telling Pashinyan, “This is not talks… It’s just an ultimatum, blackmail... of the legitimate authorities.” Pashinyan told the Prime Minister that “In Armenia, the power has passed to the people” and that he would force Sargsyan to resign. The opposition leader was arrested the next day. In a surprising twist, Sargsyan did step down, posting this statement on his website Monday morning: “Nikol [Pashinyan] was right. I was wrong. The movement on the streets is against my rule. I’m complying with their demands.”
Sargsyan ruled Armenia since his controversial election in 2008. At least eight people died in clashes between the state and the opposition. Backlash happened again when Sargsyan was re-elected in 2013 for another five-year term. In 2015, the public voted to move into a parliamentary system. While he stated that he would “not aspire” to be Prime Minister at the time, he was sworn into office on April 17th. Last week, Sargsyan orchestrated a parliamentary vote to transfer all powers of the presidency over to the Prime Ministry. The Armenian opposition saw this as a clear power grab by Sargsyan.
Many protesters celebrating in the streets on Monday turned their attention to mourning the next day. April 24th is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, a day for the international Armenian community to mourn the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians. A crowd of about 10,000 followed Nikol Pashinyan to a memorial in Yerevan. There, Pashinyan told the press that he would act as Prime Minister if it was the desire of the people. “I hope that the leaders of the Republican Party will unequivocally and unconditionally recognize the victory of the people's velvet, nonviolent revolution," he said.