Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan said Monday he was resigning to help safeguard civic peace following almost two weeks of mass street protests that have plunged the impoverished ex-Soviet republic into political crisis.
Remembering the Armenian Genocide
Sargsyan had served as Armenia's president for a decade until this month and had faced accusations of clinging to power when parliament elected him as prime minister last week.
Under a revised constitution, the prime minister now holds most power in the tiny southern Caucasus nation, while the presidency has become largely ceremonial.
Pressure on the 63-year-old to quit had increased sharply Monday when unarmed soldiers in the capital Yerevan joined the anti-government protests, which first erupted on April 13.
Though peaceful, the tumult has threatened to destabilize Armenia, a key Russian ally in a volatile region riven by its decades-long, low-level conflict with Azerbaijan. Moscow, which has two military bases in Armenia, was closely watching events.
"I got it wrong," Sargsyan said in a statement issued by his office. "In the current situation there are several solutions, but I won't choose any of them. It's not my style. I am quitting the country's leadership and the post of prime minister of Armenia."
He said he was bowing to protesters' demands and wanted his country to remain peaceful.
Former Armenian prime minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally of Sargsyan from his ruling Republican Party, was named as acting prime minister, Russia's RIA news agency reported, citing the Armenian government press office.
Armenia's political parties in parliament now have seven days to put forward the name of a new prime minister. Sargsyan's allies remain in key positions in the government and it remains unclear whether his resignation will herald any real change.