Armenia’s Opposition, Blocked in Parliament, Raises Pressure in the Streets


Russia, which maintains a military base in Armenia, has called the protests an internal affair, with President Vladimir V. Putin urging all sides to resolve their differences legally. The Kremlin shows no signs of planning to interfere militarily, as it did after similar upheavals in Ukraine and Georgia.

On Tuesday, members of the Republican Party repeatedly belittled Mr. Pashinyan, a 42-year-old former journalist, as unfit for the job of prime minister. They suggested he did not have the experience required to run the military, with one saying mockingly that it required more than his standard attire of a camouflage T-shirt. Others clearly found galling the idea that he was trying to leverage the threat of further street protests to push them into voting for him as prime minister.

Many members called for further dialogue and negotiation with Mr. Pashinyan, so there were different theories about the strategy behind the stance of the Republican Party, whose members have held a virtual monopoly over political and economic power in Armenia since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

First, Mr. Pashinyan most likely worried members of the elite with his vow to dismantle political and economic monopolies, prompting them to seek negotiated guarantees before making him prime minister next week. Rejecting him put them in a better bargaining position.

Second, party members might reject him again on Tuesday, figuring that even with their prospects damaged by the protests, they might as well take their chances in snap elections while they are still in power and in control of the electoral process.

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Protesters used vehicles and trash dumpsters to block streets in the capital.

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Sergei Grits/Associated Press

The party did not put forward Karen Karapetyan, the acting prime minister and a Sargsyan ally, as a candidate for prime minister. Mr. Pashinyan was the only nominee, but anyone who garners support from one-third of lawmakers in Parliament can run next week. That opens the path for all kinds of bargaining and horse-trading among political factions.

In the meantime, Mr. Pashinyan vowed to keep up the pressure by taking the showdown to the streets. He has called for demonstrations every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On Wednesday protesters spread across Yerevan, with people blocking not just roads but also the subway, universities, schools and government institutions. A group of lawyers blocked the entrance to the Ministry of Justice with three cars, according to local news reports. Workers at the airport also joined the strike, although Mr. Pashinyan urged them to return to work to avoid inconveniencing international travelers.

One resident walking to work in the early morning described Yerevan as a city on “lockdown,” although offices and shops were still operating.

Protesters roaming the city to the beat of drums and flutes occasionally broke into chants like “Nikol — Victory!” Pictures from around the country showed that the general strike was atractding support in other large cities and villages too.

“The Republicans are already ‘feeling the heat’ and sensing the pressure in general,” but they will not concede right away, said Mr. Giragosian, the analyst, answering questions on Twitter. “With six days until the second ballot for interim premier, there is ample time for them to back down and or cut deals individually, but each passing day will test their resolve to stand firm.”

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