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Amid Protests, Armenian Lawmakers Preserve Ex-President's Place In Power

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Opposition demonstrators block the entrance of an underground train during their protest Monday against former President Serzh Sargsyan’s shift into the role of prime minister. Karo Sahakyan/AP hide caption

toggle caption Karo Sahakyan/AP

Updated at 1:28 p.m. ET

Armenian demonstrators have gathered in the thousands in Yerevan, where national lawmakers elected the former two-term president Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister Tuesday. But they have not descended on the country’s capital to welcome the longtime leader to his new role as premier.

The massive demonstration has another goal in mind: Led by opposition MP Nikol Pashinian, the protesters are condemning what they see as a power grab — a bid by Sargsyan, who was elected president in 2008 and re-elected in 2013, to maintain authority at the cost of the country’s democratic institutions.

What has assembled in Yerevan — and is being live-streamed on YouTube — constitutes a “nonviolent velvet revolution,” Pashinian said Tuesday, referencing the peaceful 1989 uprising that ousted the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia. He is calling for a widespread strike and blockades of government buildings.

“We must paralyze the entire state system and the

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