YEREVAN -- Armenia's parliamentary speaker says lawmakers will vote on May 1 for the country's next prime minister, following the resignation of Serzh Sarkisian from the post.
Speaker Ara Babloian on April 26 announced the special parliamentary session as the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) came under growing pressure to hand over power to opposition leader Nikol Pashinian.
However, despite Sarkisian’s resignation and the departure of the junior partner from the HKK’s governing coalition on April 25, the HKK still controls a majority with 58 lawmakers in the 105-seat parliament.
Pashinian on April 26 was meeting with other parliamentary factions in a bid to secure support for his candidacy as the next prime minister.
An opposition bloc announced on April 25 that it would officially nominate Pashinian for the post.
But the Pashinian-led opposition alliance in parliament is short of votes needed to appoint Pashinian as Armenia’s next prime minister.
That development would require all opposition deputies and at least six Republican Party lawmakers to support Pashinian's candidacy.
Pashinian said on April 26 that he had met with Gagik Tsarukian, leader of parliament’s second-largest faction -- the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
The BHK on April 25 told its members to take to the streets and join Pashinian’s protest movement. But it has yet to officially confirm whether its parliament deputies will vote to elect Pashinian as prime minister.
On April 26, Tsarukian said his parliamentary faction would formally announce its position after negotiations are completed. He said that "one thing is absolutely clear. In our decisions, we will be guided by the voice of the people, by the people's will."
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, also known as Dashnaktsutyun, said after leaving the governing coalition that the parliament should elect a prime minister who “enjoys the people’s confidence.”
Several Dashnaktsutyun lawmakers on April 25 also publicly expressed their support for Pashinian and the street protests he has been leading for the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, two key officials in the HKK -- acting Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and acting Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian -- were meeting with officials in Moscow to discuss the implications of the political crisis in Yerevan.
Questioned by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on April 26 about his agenda in Moscow, Nalbandian refused to disclose which Russian officials he was meeting with.
The Moscow visit by Nalbandian and Gevorgian comes after HKK party members met in Yerevan late on April 25 with Sarkisian and acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian.
The HHK indicated after the meeting that it plans to replace Sarkisian as party chairman but did not say who the new leader would be.
The HKK also said it was ready to discuss “any issue” with Pashinian “without preconditions.”
Supporters of Pashinian, who leads the opposition Civil Contract party, were continuing their street protests on April 26.
Pashinian, carrying a bullhorn, was leading one large group of protest marchers in the capital while other demonstrators gathered at Republic Square in central Yerevan.
Apparently referring to himself during an April 25 rally in Yerevan, Pashinian said “the Armenian people have a candidate for prime minister and the National Assembly factions must reckon with this political reality and nominate that candidate by consensus.”
Meanwhile, President Armen Sarkisian on April 26 called on "all political groups, especially those represented in the National Assembly," to pave the way for "a new Armenia."
The Armenian president said in a speech that Serzh Sarkisian's resignation on April 23 had "opened the door" to "a new Armenia where a civil, organized, and civilized movement became an all-Armenian movement that we can be proud of."
“We ought to fulfill this historical mission and make this step at this decisive moment for our people," said the president, whose post is largely ceremonial. "The political groups enjoying the confidence of the majority of the population should lead the country along this path in a consolidated manner.”
Pashinian insists the HHK is responsible for vote-rigging in previous elections and should not be allowed to remain in power while early parliamentary elections are being organized.
Pashinian says fresh parliamentary elections should be held shortly after parliament appoints a transitional government.
He also has called for Armenia's current election laws to be reformed, saying they do not promote free, fair, or transparent elections.