YEREVAN, Armenia – Armenia's prime minister led his supporters during a rally outside parliament Tuesday to protest what he called a "counterrevolution" by his political opponents.
Nikol Pashinian took office in May after spearheading weeks of protests that forced the resignation of his predecessor. He has pushed for an early parliamentary election, an effort to unseat foes who maintain a parliamentary majority.
Those political foes responded Tuesday by passing a bill intended to disrupt Pashinian's plan to disband parliament and call a new election for December. The bill must be signed by the president to become law.
"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.
Pashinian called on his supporters to protest the move and several thousand quickly gathered outside parliament. Pro-Pashinian lawmakers blocked the exits to prevent his opponents from leaving the building.
In a fiery speech at the rally, Pashinian assailed the Republican Party and its allies for what he described as the "counterrevolutionary" move.
"They have waged a war against their people," he said.
Pashinian told his supporters he would urge President Armen Sarkissian not to sign the bill into law.
He also declared that he decided to fire Cabinet members from the two parties that joined the Republican Party in Tuesday's vote.
After speaking to the demonstrators, Pashinian went inside the parliament building for talks with lawmakers. Some of the people attending the rally tried to break into parliament, shouting insults at the Republicans and their allies.
Pashinian'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. Pashinian, 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.