Leader quits amid protests, saying 'I was wrong'
YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) Serzh Sargsyan, who ruled Armenia for 10 years, resigned yesterday as prime minister after thousands of people poured into the streets to protest his political maneuvering to cling to power in this former Soviet republic.
The stunning development touched off jubilation in the capital of Yerevan, with car horns blaring and people dancing, hugging and waving the tricolor Armenian flag. The opposition called for a meeting with the acting prime minister to discuss a "peaceful transfer of power."
Sargsyan, 63, was president of the Caucasus mountains nation from 2008 until term limits forced him out in March. But parliament, which is controlled by his party, voted to reduce the powers of the presidency and give them to the prime minister, ultimately installing Sargsyan in that post last week.
The move echoed a maneuver a decade ago by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenia's closest ally. Leaders of other former Soviet republics, from Belarus to Central Asia, have similarly extended their terms.
The parliament's action had triggered massive anti-government protests in Yerevan since April 13, with demonstrators blocking government buildings and facing off with police. A rally on Sunday attracted about 50,000 people, and about 200 soldiers joined the protesters on Monday.
Protest leader Nikol Pashinian met Sunday with Sargsyan, who walked out of the session after Pashinian refused to talk about anything but the prime minister's resignation. Pashinian was later arrested but abruptly released yesterday.