After more than ten days of protest, Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned on Monday. “I’m leaving the post of leader of the country,” he said according to his press service, quoted by the official Armenian news agency Armenpress.
This surprise announcement took place a few hours after the release from prison of the leader of the protest and MP Nikol Pachinian, arrested the day before during an opposition demonstration. The parliamentarian immediately joined the protesters in the streets of Yerevan, saying: “Proud citizen of Armenia, you won! And no one can deprive you of this victory. I congratulate you, victorious people!
The demonstrations had become almost daily since April 13. On Monday morning uniformed soldiers had, for the first time, joined the ranks of demonstrators, pilling further pressure on the government. While the constitution of Armenia prohibits the president to carry out more than two mandates, Serzh Sargsyan, at the head of the country since 2008, had voted in 2015 a controversial reform giving the essential powers to the Prime Minister, the functions of the president becoming largely formal.
The poverty rate in Armenia has increased in recent years: rising from 27.6% in 2008 to 29.8% in 2016 while gross national income (GNI) per capita has stalled at $ 3,770, almost the same amount as ten years ago. Corruption is also a major problem in Armenian society.
“The majority of the population no longer has confidence in the authorities or in the political system of the country in general,” says analyst Yuri Navoyan, who chairs the Russian-Armenian NGO Dialogue, based in Moscow. He claims that “the authorities and the people are two opposing realities” in Armenia, stressing that “the protests in Armenia have revealed socio-economic and political problems that have accumulated for years”.