Armenian premier steps down, maneuvering for early election

FILE - In this file photo from May 9, 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks during a news conference in the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan under the control of ethnic Armenian forces. Pashinian stepped down as prime minister on Oct. 16, 2018, in a political maneuver aimed at forcing an early election. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)
FILE - In this file photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian gestures as he addresses the crowd in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia . Armenia's prime minister stepped down Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018 a political maneuver aimed at forcing an early election. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenia's prime minister stepped down Tuesday, a political maneuver aimed at forcing an early election.

Nikol Pashinian, who took office in May after spearheading weeks of protests that forced the resignation of his predecessor, has pushed for an early parliamentary election this fall in a bid to unseat foes who maintain a majority.

He announced his resignation on live national television, saying that the early vote is needed "to return the power to the people."

Pashinian, a former journalist, tapped public anger over the widespread poverty, high unemployment and rampant corruption that flourished under the old government.

He said that he will stay in charge as acting prime minister, serving as a "guarantor of the people's victory," and members of his Cabinet will also continue to perform their duties.

Early elections are held if lawmakers fail twice within 14 days to appoint a prime minister, and Pashinian strongly persuaded his opponents not to nominate any candidates. He led thousands of supporters to besiege parliament earlier this month to force his foes to accept an early vote.

Pashinian pointed at those rallies, saying in his televised address that he hopes that his opponents wouldn't attempt to "cross the red line" and vote in their candidate for prime minister.

"We are more than ready for any scenario, and no force could stand up to the people's will," he said.

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