Armenia's Pashinyan appointed PM after 'velvet revolution'

©Agence France-Presse

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan won a landslide victory in a December parliamentary election, cementing his authority after he swept to power in a peaceful revolution last year

Yerevan (AFP) - Armenia's president appointed former protest leader Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister on Monday as the Caucasus country's parliament met for the first time since an election last month.

Pashinyan won a landslide victory in the snap December parliamentary elections, cementing his authority after he swept to power in a peaceful revolution last year. 

Speaking in the National Assembly, President Armen Sarkissian said the election had "endowed this parliament with a high legitimacy". 

Only parties who backed Pashinyan's so-called "velvet revolution" made it to parliament as a result of the vote which international monitors hailed as democratic.

Pashinyan's Civil Contract party won 70.43 percent of the vote. 

"The main political change expected in Armenia has already happened: power has been returned to the people and democracy has been established," Pashinyan said in a meeting with the president according to the prime minister's press service. 

"Now there is another task: to strengthen this democracy with institutional guarantees."   

The 43-year-old former journalist has pledged to root out endemic corruption and address widespread poverty in the impoverished, landlocked ex-Soviet republic of three million people. 

Pashinyan first became prime minister in May after spearheading weeks of peaceful anti-government rallies that ousted veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian.

But he resigned in October after efforts at reform stalled in the face of opposition from Sarkisian's Republican Party. The move triggered a snap election which Pashinyan said would "bring the velvet revolution to its logical end". 

The Republican Party failed to clear the five percent threshold needed to make it into parliament. 

While seeking reforms at home, Pashinyan has also pursued a balanced foreign policy during his first five months in office. 

He reassured Russian President Vladimir Putin that Armenia would remain Moscow's loyal ally but at the same time sought to charm Western leaders. 

During an international summit in the capital Yerevan in October he danced traditional Armenian dances with French President Emmanuel Macron and wore matching socks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.