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Armenia: Protesters storm Yerevan City Hall May 16 /update 18

Opposition demonstrators storm Yerevan’s City Hall May 16, demanding the mayor’s resignation; Prime Minister Pashinyan calls for calm May 17

17 May 03:58 PM UTC
TIMEFRAME expected from 5/16/2018, 12:00 AM until 5/21/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Yerevan). COUNTRY/REGION Yerevan
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Event

Opposition supporters continue to hold small rallies and strikes in Yerevan. On Wednesday, May 16, dozens of demonstrators forced their way past security guards at City Hall, demanding the resignation of Mayor Taron Markarian. First Deputy Mayor Kamo Areian met with the protesters in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Another protest was held in Yerevan on Thursday, May 17, with dozens of people calling for the resignation of Prosecutor General Artur Davitan. Newly elected Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called for all citizens to stop their protests at 15:00 (local time) on Thursday and to peacefully bring their grievances to the attention of the government.

Context

Residents in Yerevan have accused Markarian of corruption, misusing state funds, and illegally cutting down trees in a park in the capital. Protesters started calling for Davitan to step down after a court in Yerevan rejected the release of ten members of Sasna Tsrer group from pretrial detention. The ten people have been charged over the two-week occupation of a Yerevan police station in 2016 which resulted in the deaths of two police officers.

Pashinyan was elected as prime minister on May 8 following three weeks of anti-government protests. Anti-government demonstrations have been taking place daily in Yerevan since April 13, eventually leading to the April 23 resignation of former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. Hundreds of protesters have been detained by the police.

In general, political tensions have been high in the country since December 2015, when a controversial constitutional amendment changed Armenia's government from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary republic. Under the new government, the president has a largely ceremonial role while the prime minister has become more powerful. Critics have claimed that the new system was designed to allow then-President Sargsyan to maintain control of the government following the end of his term in April. Opposition leaders have called for a "Velvet Revolution" in a bid to "preserve" democracy in the country.

Advice

Individuals present in Armenia, particularly in Yerevan, are advised to monitor developments to the situation and to avoid all demonstrations due to the risk of violence.

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