Amid protests, Armenia's ex-president becomes prime minister

Opposition demonstrators march to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Armenia's former president has been elected prime minister amid large-scale protests. The Armenian parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian, center, and other demonstrators march to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Thousands of opposition supporters have been rallying since last weekend to protest what they think is Sargsyan's attempt to stay in power indefinitely. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian marches with the other demonstrators to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Armenia's former president has been elected prime minister amid large-scale protests. The Armenian parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
An opposition demonstrator stands in front of police line during a rally to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Thousands of opposition supporters have been rallying since last weekend to protest what they think is Sargsyan's attempt to stay in power indefinitely. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
Opposition demonstrators throng in a tree lined avenue during a rally to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Thousands of opposition supporters have been rallying since last weekend to protest what they think is Sargsyan's attempt to stay in power indefinitely. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
Opposition demonstrators march to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Armenia's former president has been elected prime minister amid large-scale protests. The Armenian parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
A policeman looks through a door window reflecting opposition demonstrators marching to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Armenia's former president shifted into the prime minister's seat Tuesday as tens of thousands opposition supporters rallied in the capital to protest the move, which they saw as a power grab. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
Opposition demonstrators block a street to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Armenia's former president has been elected prime minister amid large-scale protests. The Armenian parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)
Opposition demonstrators stand in front of police line during a rally to protest the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Thousands of opposition supporters have been rallying since last weekend to protest what they think is Sargsyan's attempt to stay in power indefinitely. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP)

YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenia's former president shifted into the prime minister's seat Tuesday as about 40,000 protesters rallied in the capital to oppose the move, which they saw as a power grab.

Supporters of opposition parties in Armenia have blocked government buildings and streets in the capital since Friday, but the demonstrations did not deter lawmakers from voting 77-17 to confirm ex-President Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister.

Sargsyan served as Armenia's president from 2008 until stepping down because of term limits. Under a new political system, he now takes a dominant role as prime minister, and the new president plays a mostly ceremonial role.

Protesters see the government change as an attempt to extend Sargsyan's rule in the former Soviet nation. His critics vowed to block Tuesday's parliament session to keep him from being confirmed, but police cordoned off the area hours before the vote.

The protesters' leader, opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian, declared what he called a "velvet revolution," urging demonstrators to keep besieging government ministries, the prosecutor's office, the Central Bank and other official buildings. He also called for spreading protests across Armenia.

Police didn't try to disperse the protesters Tuesday, and the rally went on peacefully. A day earlier, police used tear gas and stun grenades when protesters tried to break through police cordons. Several dozen people were injured in the clashes.

Police also detained three demonstrators involved in the brief seizure of the public radio headquarters on Saturday.

Armen Sarkisian, who took over as president from Sargsyan earlier this month, issued a statement Tuesday, warning protesters against violence and unlawful actions.

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