YEREVAN -- Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinian has launched a fresh demonstration on the streets of Yerevan, leading thousands of supporters on a march and calling for the ruling Republican Party (HHK) party to cede power.
Police were deployed in the center of the capital as the protest began on April 25, casting new uncertainly over the country's political future two days after longtime leader Serzh Sarkisian stepped down as prime minister following 11 days of demonstrations.
"I believe that our nonviolent, velvet revolution has sent a clear message that...the Republican Party can no longer be in power," Pashinian said.
“We demand that the Republican Party give up its power and...unequivocally recognize the victory of the people," he said, speaking through a bullhorn as he marched at the head of a column of protesters in his trademark camouflage T-shirt.
WATCH: Live stream from Yerevan by RFE/RL's Armenian Service
Pashinian said that although Sarkisian resigned on April 23, "the Republicans must also be deprived of their power," so that he cannot rule Armenia as de facto head of "shadow government."
The new protest came after the cancelation of planned talks between Pashinian and acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, a senior HHK member who said he rejected Pashinian's conditions for the negotiations.
The rallies and police deployments revived tensions two days after the unexpected resignation of Sarkisian, who served two terms as president and held the newly powerful office of prime minister for less than a week.
Protesters accused Sarkisian, whose 10-year stint as president ended earlier in April, of clinging to power by becoming prime minister -- the country's top post following reforms he pushed through in a 2015 referendum.
Opposition lawmaker Pashinian is calling for snap elections to parliament, which is now dominated by the HHK, and for a "people's candidate" to be chosen as interim prime minister until the vote is held.
The bearded 42-year-old has made clear he wants to hold that post, saying on April 25 that he would "accept this responsibility...if the people give it to me."
Protesters marching with Pashinian voiced their support, chanting "Reject Serzh and Karen" and "Nikol -- prime minister!"
The HHK has suggested that it is open to holding early parliamentary elections but wants to remain at the head of government in the interim.
"The logical solution is that political parties -- within the framework of our constitution and the law -- sit down and discuss whether there is a need for early elections" and when they could be held, Karapetian told a news conference on April 25.
He said that "equal rules of the game [must] be applied to all."
Meanwhile, President Armen Sarkisian -- a relative figurehead under the new system -- said in a statement that he would start consultations with "parliamentary and nonparliamentary representatives" to try to find "a way out" of the country's political crisis.
As the fresh protests began on April 25 in Yerevan, convoys of police vehicles led by Interior Ministry armored personnel carriers pulled trailers of razor wire to different points in the city center:
They were closely followed by scores of uniformed riot police who ran to strategic positions, where they assembled with riot shields, and dozens of police buses often used to transport detainees were parked near the security checkpoints.
Areas that were cordoned off included streets with government buildings and the central office of the ruling Republican Party.
Pashinian, meanwhile, said that acts of civil disobedience by his supporters had expanded to include a blockade on a customs post on the border with Georgia, which lies between Armenia and Russia.
As Pashinian and the protesters faced off against the ruling party, other political forces began to take sides.
The Prosperous Armenia Party led by wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian -- whose bloc has the second-largest faction in parliament -- called on its members to "be with the people" in the streets.
The Heritage party, which has no parliament seats but whose leader, Raffi Hovannisian, came in second in the 2013 presidential election, according to official results, did the same.
Another group, the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, urged Karapetian to "step down and force the parliamentary majority to elect a people's candidate as prime minister."
It said in a statement that any other course of action could have "irreversible and dangerous consequences."
Edmon Marukian, a member of parliament’s opposition Yelk faction, said there were already enough votes in parliament to nominate Pashinian -- who is one of the three formal leaders of Yelk -- as a candidate for the prime minister's post.
In the 105-seat parliament, where at least 27 votes are needed to nominate a candidate for the prime minister’s post, Yelk has nine lawmakers and Tsarukian's BHK has 31 seats.
"A situation has been created when, without the Republican Party giving up power, nothing will move," Marukian told RFE/RL while marching with protesters.
"With the BHK, we already have 40 seats and we are 13 seats short” of electing Pashinian as prime minister, Marukian said.
He said he believed the groups can get "the missing votes" from members of the Republican Party, which has 58 seats in parliament, and its coalition partner Dashnaktsutyun, which has seven.
But Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK parliamentary faction, told RFE/RL that his party remained "united" and that none of its members would break ranks.
The HHK is backing President Armen Sarkisian's calls for dialogue, Baghdasarian said, adding: "Political dialogues will be held. We will make a decision. The Republican faction is united. When we make a decision, we will [announce it]."
Asked if the HHK might back Pashinian's demand for a "people's candidate" as interim prime minister, Baghdasarian said: "We cannot say that. A people's candidate is a relative concept."
"We will move in accordance with the constitution and will not violate any clause of the constitution," he said. "We'll talk about the rest later."
Russia -- which has a military base in Armenia and dominates regional security and economic groupings that include the ex-Soviet republic of about 3 million -- said it was "very carefully monitoring this situation."
"We still consider that this is a domestic affair and hope that our Armenian friends will be able to resolve this situation and find a stable structure and a consensus decision soon," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The United States and the European Union have called for restraint and political dialogue.
"It remains imperative that the current situation is resolved swiftly and peacefully," read a joint statement released by the EU delegation and the embassies of EU states in Yerevan. "A national dialogue involving all political stakeholders remains crucial."