April 22, 2018 / 8:27 AM / a month ago

Armenian PM rejects demands to quit on 10th day of protests

YEREVAN, April 22 (Reuters) - Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan rejected on Sunday opposition demands to step down, as protests against the former president’s appointment as premier extended to a 10th day.

Protesters accuse Sarksyan of clinging to power after he was appointed premier this month following 10 years as president. Tens of thousands of opponents have marched through Yerevan, blocking streets in the city centre and staging sit-ins.

Under a revised constitution approved in a 2015 referendum, most state powers in the small, ex-Soviet state have shifted to the prime minister while the presidency has become a largely ceremonial post.

Sarksyan met the opposition lawmaker leading the protests, Nikol Pashinyan, in Yerevan on Sunday but left talks a few minutes after they began.

“This is not talks, not a dialogue, it’s just an ultimatum, blackmail of the state, of the legitimate authorities,” Sarksyan told Pashinyan.

He said the opposition “did not learn the lesson of March 1”, referring to a protest rally after his re-election in 2008 when 10 people were killed in clashes with police.

Parliament voted on Tuesday to allow Sarksyan to become premier.

“No one has dared and will dare speak to us in the language of threats. I am telling you: you have no understanding of the situation in the country. The situation is different to the one you knew 15-20 days ago,” Pashinyan told Sarksyan on Sunday.

“The situation in Armenia has changed, you don’t have the power of which you are told. In Armenia, the power has passed to the people,” he said. (Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan Writing by Maria Kiselyova Editing by Edmund Blair)

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