In Stunning Turnabout in Armenia, Protester Becomes Prime Minister

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The demonstrations swelled, with Mr. Pashinyan, again free, stressing that if the police used force, protesters should just raise their hands and surrender. He told the police repeatedly that they were friends and fellow Armenians.

Many of those who had been skeptical became supporters. “He is one of the few political guys in Armenia who really changed,” said Samvel Martirosyan, a specialist in internet security and a veteran political observer. “He became smarter, calmer, he speaks really well.”

On May 1, the governing party, which holds 58 out of 105 seats in Parliament, voted down his bid to become interim prime minister. So Mr. Pashinyan went to Yerevan’s central Republic Square, the throbbing heart of the protests, where an estimated 250,000 people had gathered, and called for a nationwide strike at 8:15 the next morning.

Supporters brought the country to a halt, joking that it was a measure of Mr. Pashinyan’s influence that he could make Armenians do things on time.

Parliament met again on Tuesday to choose a leader, and this time Mr. Pashinyan prevailed. He said his first priority was to organize the first fair parliamentary elections in many years.

Mr. Pashinyan has vowed to break up the cozy system of oligarchic monopolies and invigorate an economy that has left a third of the country in poverty. After 30 years of fighting with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region both countries claim, he has said he will make the enclave part of Armenia.

He brushes aside fears that he has set expectations so high that he is bound to disappoint.

“I am in a working mood, there is no sense of euphoria, just work to do,” Mr. Pashinyan said. “If we were able to do the impossible, that means we will be able to do the difficult.”

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