Dozens of Armenians were jailed after trying to block access to government buildings. People have been taking to the streets for a week to protest a decision to make ex-President Serzh Sargsyan the next prime minister.
Armenian police detained dozens of anti-government demonstrators on Thursday, on the seventh day of protests against former President Serzh Sargsyan's election as prime minister.
Opposition parliamentarian Nikol Pashinian led the protests that saw hundreds of people try to block the entrances to government buildings in the capital, Yerevan, on Thursday before riot police intervened.
Thousands of Armenians have taken to the streets in Yerevan over the past week to protest what they see as Sargsyan's efforts to remain in power after his second and final term as president ended earlier this year.
The country's new president, Armen Sarkisian, was inaugurated on April 9, but will have less influence after a 2015 national referendum led to changes to the constitution that introduced a parliamentary system of government and transferred governing powers from the president to the prime minister.
The new 63-year-old prime minister is a former military officer and has held power in Armenia for a decade. Following his election as president in 2008, 10 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between police and opposition supporters.
Campaign of 'civil disobedience'
The protests began in Yerevan on Friday and have since reached the country's second- and third-largest cities, Gyumri and Vanadzor.
On Wednesday evening, more than 16,000 people protested in Yerevan's Republic Square — a significantly smaller crowd than the 40,000 people who were there on Tuesday.
Pashinian had earlier announced the "start of a peaceful Velvet Revolution," referring to the uprising that led to the end of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
He told Wednesday's demonstrators that the protest movement's goal was to "change power" in Armenia through a nationwide campaign of "civil disobedience" and permanent sit-in protests inside government buildings.
On Monday, police used stun grenades against demonstrators who tried to break through a barbed wire barrier to access the parliament building.
Authorities said 46 people, including six police and opposition leader Pashinian, sought medical assistance.
EU: Citizens have right to exercise freedom
On April 11, Armenia's National Assembly ratified a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
For its part, the EU delegation in Armenia on Thursday encouraged all parties involved in the protests to show "restraint and responsibility."
"Citizens have a legitimate right to exercise freedom of assembly in a peaceful manner and in accordance with the law," the delegation said in a statement. "State authorities have a duty to ensure public safety and health by applying the law in a fair and proportionate manner.
"The EU trusts that Armenia will make renewed efforts to pursue an inclusive reform process towards strengthening democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary," it said.
law/sms (AFP, AP)