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Pashinyan supporters optimistic ahead of Armenia parliament vote

Pashinyan supporters optimistic ahead of Armenia parliament vote
Tuesday, 08 May, 2018, 12:55

This weekend, traffic flowed freely through Yerevan's broad avenues. Buskers played Armenian folk songs to tourists. The calm was unsettling.

Because of late, Nikol Pashinyan's so-called Velvet Revolution has exercised true people power - the ability to conjure up a storm of support on request.

Pashinyan, whose protest movement began with a Gandhi-inspired march of non-violence on March 31, is widely expected to be chosen by parliament as Armenia's new prime minister on Tuesday.

The 42-year-old has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in just a few short weeks. Appealing to Armenians of all ages, his straight talk and promises to rid the country of an oligarchic, nepotistic political system have resonated with the younger generation, frustrated by a lack of opportunities.

"Nikol says, 'We need to close the roads' - the roads get closed. He says, 'Nothing must happen' - nothing happens. People just worship him," says Ghevond, 26.

Ghevond is a classically-trained ballet dancer, but he currently works as a hotel doorman.

"If it stays the same way, in a couple of years there'll be nobody left here," he says Ghevond, adding that he is ready to head to Russia as soon as he gets his passport.

"My best friend of 24 years, he left a month ago to America, forever. We all understand that it will be hard, but there is simply no other option. Nikol must be made prime minister."

On Monday night, Republic Square resounded again with music and the blaring of car horns. Pashinyan welcomed Serj Tankian to a stage erected ahead of Tuesday's vote. The famous lead singer of System of Down flew in to throw his support behind the Armenian people.

System of a Down is one of Armenia's greatest known contemporary cultural exports and Tankian's visit reflects the opposition movement's appeal, not just among Armenians in Armenia but among the diaspora of millions of Armenians who live abroad, and have an interest in seeing this revolution reach its conclusion.

"The entire world is looking at you as an example, with smiles on your faces you reached your goal. The world for years has known Armenia as a place of genocide, earthquake and war, but with this movement you raise our entire nation's image," Tankian told a cheering crowd.

On Monday evening, Pashinyan dispensed with his trademark camouflage T-shirt and baseball cap, opting for a suit and tie, perhaps readying himself for the next step that may follow Tuesday's vote.

Having seemingly become the people's choice, he must now adhere to his movement's principles, and overturn Armenian power constitutionally.