Armenians are set to vote in a snap parliamentary election this Sunday that is expected to cement the rule of the new prime minister who spearheaded the massive protests earlier this year that forced the resignation of his predecessor.

The charismatic 43-year-old Nikol Pashinian, who took office in May, pushed for the elections in a bid to win control of a parliament that was dominated by his political foes.

FILE - In this file photo taken on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinian, second left, leads a march to attend a memorial service at the monument to the victims of mass killings by Ottoman Turks, to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the massacre in Yerevan, Armenia. (Karo Sahakyan/PAN Photo via AP, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinian, second left, leads a march to attend a memorial service at the monument to the victims of mass killings by Ottoman Turks, to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the massacre in Yerevan, Armenia. (Karo Sahakyan/PAN Photo via AP, File)

Pashinian, a former journalist turned politician, has tapped into public anger over widespread poverty, high unemployment and rampant corruption in the landlocked former Soviet nation of 3 million that borders Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran. His fiery rhetoric and easy style have helped cement his popularity.

Opinion polls have indicated that Pashinian’s My Step alliance is set to sweep the vote, while the Republican Party that controlled the old parliament is trailing far behind.

FILE- In this file photo taken on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian, right, speaks to a police officer in front of a police line blocking the way to demonstrators protesting the former president's shift into the prime minister's seat in Yerevan, Armenia. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP, File)
FILE- In this file photo taken on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian, right, speaks to a police officer in front of a police line blocking the way to demonstrators protesting the former president’s shift into the prime minister’s seat in Yerevan, Armenia. (Narek Aleksanyan, PAN Photo via AP, File)

The protests in Armenia erupted in April when Serzh Sargsyan, who had served as president for a decade, moved into the prime minister’s seat, a move seen by critics as an attempt to hold on to power. Thousands of protesters led by Pashinian thronged the center of the Armenian capital, forcing Sargsyan to step down days later.

The former president has kept a low profile and his Republican Party has largely remained on the defensive, reluctantly submitting to Pashinian’s demand to hold early parliamentary elections.

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, Armenian acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian attends the Eurasian Economic Council in St. (Olga Maltseva, Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, Armenian acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian attends the Eurasian Economic Council in St. (Olga Maltseva, Pool Photo via AP, File)

During the monthlong campaign, Pashinian has blasted members of the old elite as corrupt and pledged to revive the economy, create new jobs and encourage more Armenians to return home.

“We have carried out a political revolution, and now we must make an economic revolution,” Pashinian said on a recent campaign trip. “We set big and difficult goals and we will achieve them, because we are a powerful, victorious free and happy nation.”

FILE - In this file photo taken on Sunday, April 22, 2018, Former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, left, speaks with protest leader Nikol Pashinian during their meeting in Yerevan, Armenia. (Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Sunday, April 22, 2018, Former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, left, speaks with protest leader Nikol Pashinian during their meeting in Yerevan, Armenia. (Hrant Khachatryan/PAN Photo via AP, File)

The Republican Party shot back at Pashinian, criticizing what it described as his populist statements and divisive rhetoric.

“Pashinian has been unable to solve social problems, so he has turned to making shows,” snapped Eduard Sharmazanov, a Republican Party member who served as deputy speaker.

FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, April 30, 2018, Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinian, left, shakes hands with a police officer during a rally in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Monday, April 30, 2018, Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinian, left, shakes hands with a police officer during a rally in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

Armenia has been weakened by an economic blockade stemming from the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a six-year separatist war in 1994.

FILE - In this file photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, supporters of opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian gather in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, supporters of opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian gather in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have closed their borders with Armenia over the conflict, cutting trade and leaving Armenia in semi-isolation. The country has direct land access only to Georgia and Iran.

About one-third of Armenia’s population has moved to live and work abroad and remittances from those who have left account for around 14 percent of the country’s annual GDP.

FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Supporters of opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian stand atop of a vehicle as they protest in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)
FILE – In this file photo taken on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Supporters of opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinian stand atop of a vehicle as they protest in Republic Square in Yerevan, Armenia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

“We want the emigration to stop and a wave of repatriation to come instead,” he said.

Armenia is highly dependent on Russia, which provides loans and serves as the main source of imports and the top export market. Russia has a military base in Armenia and sees relations with Yerevan as strategically important.

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. (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. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File)

Pashinian has pledged to maintain and strengthen ties with Moscow. The Kremlin, which resented the protests that swept out unpopular leaders of other ex-Soviet nations in the past, has responded calmly to the abrupt change of power and has sought to establish a dialogue with Pashinian.

“Armenia’s commitment to strong strategic relations with Russia is intact,” Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told The Associated Press. “We may have varying approaches to various issues, but strategic partners are strategic partners.”

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, shakes hands with acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian at the Eurasian Economic Council in St. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin, shakes hands with acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian at the Eurasian Economic Council in St. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

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Source: The Associated Press