YEREVAN - Armenia's prime minister led his supporters on Tuesday to rally outside parliament to protest what he called a “counterrevolution” by his opponents.
Nikol Pashinyan, who took office in May after spearheading weeks of protests that forced the resignation of his predecessor, has pushed for an early parliamentary election in December in a bid to unseat his political foes who have maintained a majority in parliament.
They responded Tuesday by giving preliminary approval to a bill that would essentially make it impossible for Pashinyan to disband the parliament and call a new election.
“We made the decision not because we don't want to face early elections, but because we can't accept pressuring lawmakers,” parliamentary speaker Ara Babloian said.
Pashinyan called on his supporters to protest the move and several thousand quickly gathered outside parliament. Pro-Pashinyan lawmakers blocked the exits to prevent his opponents from leaving the building.
In a fiery speech at the rally, Pashinyan assailed the Republican Party and its allies for what he described as the “counter-revolutionary” move.
“They have waged a war against their people,” he said.
He also declared that he decided to fire Cabinet members from the two parties that joined the Republican Party in Tuesday's vote.
Pashinyan's predecessor, Serzh Sargsyan, shifted into the premier's seat in April after serving two presidential terms, a move seen as a maneuver to avoid term limits and stay in power. Pashinyan, a former journalist, led a wave of protests fueled by public anger over the widespread poverty, high unemployment and rampant corruption that flourished under the old government, forcing Sargsyan to step down.