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Nikol Pashinyan: Armenia's maverick street leader turned Prime Minister
 
(YEREVAN, May 08, 2018):Just three weeks ago, few would have thought that Nikol Pashinyan, a 42-year-old opposition MP and former newspaper editor who served time in jail, will be the new prime minister of Armenia.

But after leading weeks of mass protests against the ruling party, Pashinyan succeeded in dramatically transforming the political landscape in the country and was elected PM by Armenia's parliament on Tuesday.

Pashinyan -- the head of a small opposition party -- brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of the poor South Caucasus nation, accusing veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian of a power grab and forcing him to resign as prime minister after a decade in power.

Sporting a salt and pepper beard, a tan and a baseball cap, Armenia's rising political star channelled widespread desire for change into a broad protest movement.

The father-of-four has earned a reputation as a man of the people, wearing his trademark camouflage T-shirt during protests and carrying a massive rucksack which he says contains "everything I need" -- including a chocolate bar and a laptop.

After Sarkisian's resignation last month following ten days of peaceful protests, the opposition lawmaker said only he could be the next prime minister.

Crowds of villagers poured onto the streets to greet Pashinyan, offering him fresh bread and berries, as he travelled to rallies across the country.

"The spring of liberation has come to Armenia," one Pashinyan supporter, 56-year-old Sona Paremuzyan, told AFP in Yerevan.

After the ruling Republican Party narrowly blocked his first bid for prime minister on May 1 despite initially promising not to stand in the way, Pashinyan staged a general strike that shut down the capital Yerevan and other cities.

Pashinyan only called an end to the rallies after the Republicans said they would back his candidacy.


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