Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan Transitions From Opposition Leader To Head Of State

Pashinyan successfully gained the support of the Armenian people to become the next prime minister.

Pashinyan becomes prime minister of Armenia.
Sergei Grits / AP Images

Pashinyan successfully gained the support of the Armenian people to become the next prime minister.

In a 59-to-42 vote, Nikol Pashinyan, who was an opposition leader to the previous president, was voted in by the Armenian Parliament to become the next prime minister. During the live broadcast of the vote, tens of thousands of people gathered in the Republic Square in Yerevan to celebrate. Pashinyan told the crowd that the victory wasn’t his but rather a victory for the people, reported the New York Times.

“Your victory is not that I was elected as prime minister of Armenia; your victory is that you decided who should be prime minister of Armenia.”

Pashinyan led a nonviolent protest, which took form as a 120-mile walk across central Armenia. He was protesting then-president Serzh Sargsyan, who had ruled for a decade. Even though he had already used up his term limit, Sargsyan had Parliament elect him again as prime minister. Pashinyan did not want to allow this loophole and thus began his nonviolent protest. It was only a few weeks into his walk that he began to receive press coverage and support of the people.

He eventually arrived at his final destination, Yerevan, where Sargsyan detained Pashinyan. Protests were already taking place against Sargsyan at this time. The voice of the protesters became too strong, and Sargsyan had to step down from his post and Pashinyan was released. Newly free again, Pashinyan was determined to become the next prime minister.

Parliament eventually voted against Pashinyan to become the next prime minister. However, Pashinyan asked a crowd of around 250,000 that had gathered at the square to conduct a nationwide strike at 8:15 a.m. and essentially shut the city down. On Tuesday, Parliament voted in favor of Pashinyan.

President Vladimir Putin from Russia sent congratulations to Pashinyan, which is somewhat ironic considering the Russian people are currently protesting Putin’s new term as president in large numbers. However, Armenia’s relations with Russia is incredibly important, considering Russia has a military base in Armenia, and that Russia could have easily intervened. However, Pashinyan pledged “eternal brotherhood with Moscow,” which helped him avoid Russian influence.

From his background as being a newspaper editor, leading a protest against Sargsyan in 2008, to being a political prisoner, Pashinyan’s fight against corruption started over 20 years ago. He was expelled from Yerevan State University when he started writing against corruption, and eventually became the editor-in-chief of Haykakan Zhamanak, a newspaper that he used to further spread his messages against corruption.

After Pashinyan led the protest against Sargsyan during which he and others questioned the validity of the election, he was a wanted man by the government. His wife, Anahit Sahakyan, took over the newspaper while he was in hiding. However in 2009, Pashinyan turned himself in, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. In 2011, he was released on amnesty. A year later, he was elected to Parliament.

Now that Pashinyan has been voted in as prime minister, he faces many challenges. From personnel changes to establishing his status among skeptical politicians, he is likely to have his hands full, detailed Reuters.