Seventh day in Armenia did not cease to protest. The reason for the unrest was the election to the post of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, who for 10 years led the country as President. Before that, the country passed a constitutional reform, and now former President may become a lifelong leader of Armenia, while retaining all the power. The opposition has accused Sargsyan in an attempt of usurpation of power and declared the beginning of the “velvet revolution”. “the Tape.ru” find out what made Armenians to take to the streets and what the outcome of the Yerevan square.
From 13 April demonstrations are held in the capital Yerevan and in large cities in the North of the country, Gyumri and Vanadzor. According to unofficial data, the total number of protesters ranges from 10 to 15 thousand people, they block the streets, block the building of state institutions, organize the “bed strike”.
Police at first were limited to warnings, but in the afternoon of 18 April, started into action — by 17:00 the number of detainees has reached one hundred. But the fervor of the protesters does not seem to be diminished.
It’s spring fever really started in Armenia in spring 2014. Then Serzh Sargsyan — just elected to a second and final presidential term — has announced the transition of Armenia to a parliamentary form of government and related constitutional reform. Presented shortly the draft of the new Constitution assumed that the President would become a purely ceremonial figure, but the real power will go to the Prime Minister. While not popularly elected Prime Minister, and parliamentary majority, and his term of the Board is not limited.
This has given rise to talk about the fact that Serzh Sargsyan is preparing a life rule in Armenia. The opposition urged people to take to the streets, but the protests quickly faded after Sargsyan said publicly that “will never run for President” and that “one person should not apply for the position of head of state in Armenia more than two times in my life.”
However, on Monday, April 16, Serzh Sargsyan was nominated by the ruling coalition (Republican party of Armenia and the party “Dashnaktsutiun” party) candidate in the premiere. The day after he was elected to Parliament and appointed a new “ceremonial” President Armen Sarkisian. After two presidential terms he reiterated the head of state — this time without the time constraints of the Board.
Armenia is a small country. Plans of power was known long before their actual implementation: the opposition has sounded the alarm in February, warning that will bring people to the streets. The role of the leader of the protests took on Nikol Pashinyan — opposition leader with the experience, the leader of the parliamentary faction of the bloc “EFC” (“Exit”), which the Parliament only 9 seats out of 105.
on March 31 in Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia Pashinyan with like-minded people began a March to the capital and, after two weeks, approximately 200 kilometers, 13 APR reached Yerevan. The objectives of the protest were and remain quite specific: to prevent the appointment of Serzh Sargsyan to the post of Prime Minister. Hence its name — “Serge Leave”.
the Meeting went on the procession, after a large campaign of civil disobedience, paralyzing the life in Yerevan. Demonstrators blocked streets and occupied the square, entered the building of various agencies, lay down in the doorway of subway trains. On Friday, April 13, they broke into the building of Yerevan state University, broke down the door. The next day, Nikol Pashinyan and about a hundred of his supporters broke into the premises of the Public radio of Armenia and demanded to give them live. After the building was de-energized, the protesters went to the headquarters of the football Federation of Armenia. There Pashinyan kicked a deflated ball in the door and accused the head of the Federation that Armenian football is in a deplorable condition.
opposition Rally caused traffic jams in Yerevan: in the center of the city was impossible to pass, it was impossible to leave. The most important transport hubs of the capital were blocked. But the police did not take action to disperse protesters, and with maximum softness.
the First serious clashes with the police occurred on 16 April on the outskirts of the Parliament, when Nikol Pashinyan and his supporters tried to break through the cordon. Then the police used stun grenades and tear gas. As a result of these clashes 46 people, including six police officers and himself Pashinyan has addressed for medical aid. Five people still remain in hospitals.
the Armenian Authorities very sparingly comment on what is happening in the country. One of the first was made by Vice-speaker of the Parliament, the representative of the Republican party Eduard Sharmazanov. Armenian media, he said that the ruling party does not intend to evaluate the protests, it should make law enforcement.
a Coalition partner of the Republican party — the party of “Dashnaktsutyun” party — urged the demonstrators to leave the streets. The representative of the party member Aghvan Vardanyan was terse, demanding to refrain from clashes.
on April 17, after his election, Prime Minister, voted and Serzh Sargsyan. The head of the government said that storming government buildings and street clashes with police no of result will not give. Moreover, Sargsyan appealed to the deputies of the faction “EFC”, offering them return of their leader in the Assembly hall of Parliament.
According to the new Prime Minister, Parliament, whose actions so displeased the opposition, a platform for political dialogue among all forces and the opposition should take advantage of it.
But opposition politicians of “Elk”, from the faction “prosperous Armenia” (the backbone of which were formerly in the ruling coalition with the RPA), a new system of government is called parliamentary, and “superpremium”. To claim it is not only the supporters noted. Armenian politicians, journalists, public figures time and time again pointed out that the basic law has controversial provisions. The Prime Minister concentrates in its hands the Executive power, given the unprecedented powers with virtually no checks and balances — even period of his reign is not limited.
the New Constitution makes the head of government is practically irremovable. The Prime Minister becomes that candidate who was elected parliamentary majority, and the President is obliged to approve the position. At the same time in article 89 of the Constitution stipulates that after the parliamentary elections should be formed a stable parliamentary majority, otherwise a second round of elections.
it is Obvious that in this situation the leader of the ruling Republican party of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan is the only passing candidate.
it is this fact, according to a member of the Board of Armenian “Heritage” party Philip Arzumanian, the most annoying is not only opposition politicians, but also ordinary citizens. “People are unhappy that the man who did not enjoy any support of the population, sat in the presidential chair for ten years and now wants to put down roots as a Premier, — said the politician. — Armenia is not a country where people will tolerate autocracy. There’s a strong freedom-loving mood, and no one worships the state system, as is often the case in post-Soviet countries”.
the Demonstrators remain deaf to the calls of the authorities, the protests continue. Wednesday 18th of April movement “Serge Leave” continued to block the building of state institutions. Following the calls of Nikol Pashinian, the demonstrators blocked access to the city hall of Yerevan, going to surround the living wall of the building Mead and other departments at the Republic square.
Arsene — physical education teacher at one of Yerevan schools, the second day comes to Republic square. In his hands he holds the Armenian flag. In what school he teaches — not saying last name also refused to name. He came to the rally because she feels betrayed.
— what is He, ten years in power enough?! Promised to leave! How can the President, the leader, representing his country before the whole world, as banal lie?
Arsene did not vote for Serzh Sargsyan and his Republican party of Armenia, presidential election 2013, he supported the opposition Raffi Hovannisian. According to Arsene, he will vote for anyone who opposes Serzh Sargsyan. Former President and now Prime Minister Arsen felt guilty for the bad socio-economic situation, poverty, alarming rates of emigration, the unemployment, the impoverishment of the people and enrichment of the Armenian oligarchs.
I always participated in the protests in 2013 and in 2015 (the protests against the increase in electricity tariffs in Yerevan in the summer of 2015 — ed. “Of the tape.ru”). People are tired of bloodsuckers, he wants a breath of fresh air, — said Arsen.
member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan, according to Arsene, the leader of the nominal. In this situation, I’m sure the activist, the identity of the leader unimportant, just need the technical organizer, and Nikol Pashinian cope.
I agree With Arsene Marina Hovhannisyan, a student of one of the Yerevan universities, the future in international political analyst. She doesn’t see Nikola Pashinian a political leader and went outside in addition to not for, but against Sargsyan.
— What’s the difference who there in the head of the procession? We all have one goal: to achieve Serzh Sargsyan left. He promised to leave, promised a parliamentary Republic, but instead throws does the Armenian Afghanistan — outraged girl.
Marina says that the new form of government in Armenia has nothing to do with the parliamentary Republic, and is a way to retain power. Serzh Sargsyan, the student compares with Turkish President Erdogan, after more than ten years of Premiership, the Turkish leader has turned Turkey into a presidential Republic and remained at the head of the state, going from the old position to the new one.
Philip Arzumanian believes that recent events have played an important role in the consolidation of society. “Someone evaluates the situation as a victory over apathy and despair, someone thinks that the movement will fail and the people obediently go home, — said the politician. But the important thing is that the protests are now supported by the carriers of both points of view. And there are reasons. First and foremost, a hatred of the existing regime. Other than an insignificant amount of opportunists almost all people want immediate regime change. This is due to the economic situation and the lack of legitimacy of Sargsyan, and other factors.”
At the meeting on 17 April Nikol Pashinyan announced the beginning of the “velvet revolution” in Armenia. The MP promised to open the revolutionary committees in areas that will be on-site to oversee civil disobedience. The phrase “velvet revolution” was the occasion to talk about a “color revolution” in Armenia, its foreign supervisors, the participation of NGOs and foreign funding of the protests. Moreover, such statements can be heard not only in Armenia but also in Russia.
Russian writer and political analyst Armen Gasparyan in his Twitter writes about Yerevan independence and even calls to the specific organizations behind these events. “Square in Yerevan to coordinate, in particular, NGO “Women resource centre” and “women’s support Center”. The first is headed by a canadian citizen, second citizen of the United States. A classic of the genre,” says Gasparyan.
He recalled that two weeks ago in Washington the Center for Strategic and international studies held a round table “New challenges for Armenia. What should be the reaction of the West?”
“came to the conclusion that to remove the focus on Russia. And away we go,” says the chief.
However, opposition well-known tools to deal with the power, previously proven, is not evidence of independence. Political analyst Hayk Khalatyan fair notices, what “color revolution” characterized by the presence of the foreign policy agenda in the demands of the protesters. For the current Armenian protests it is not the case. In particular, anti-Russian sentiment among the opposition and the protesters are not observed.
As the support of external forces — similar to the Kiev events. U.S. Department of State only urged both the authorities and opposition to show restraint.
Foreign participation in the Yerevan event is not really felt at all demonstrations seen only one flag is Armenian. Banners, posters, too, no, all the action takes place under a single banner “Deny Serge” which protesters chant during marches and rallies. In social networks they add this label to their avatars and profiles, put the same hashtag.
Political (in the real sense of the word) demands the protesters have not put forward. All the speeches at the meetings relate solely to the Prime Minister Sargsyan and the history of the protest movement in Armenia over the past 10 years. Foreign policy on the agenda of this protest is generally not indicated.
This despite the fact that, according to Philip Arzumanian, over the past few years, the Russian diplomacy has made of the friendly people of Armenia implacable critics of Russia’s actions. “The sale of weapons to Azerbaijan and the full support of the illegalities committed, the government finally signed the verdict Pro-Russian sentiment in the Armenian society, — said Arzumanyan. But, with confidence I can say, today’s protests take place without any foreign agenda”.
He stressed that the Armenian society is alien to any manifestations of nationalism, and the attitude to Russia as a people and to the country always was positive and fraternal. “Any unfriendly act on the part of leadership of any country, the civil society of Armenia will be symmetrical, adequate response, and this has no relation to the warmth, hospitality, of love between two closest neighbors,” — said the politician.
During demonstrations on 15 and 16 April, the protesters repeatedly held by foreign embassies, including Russia. But people just moved on a pre-planned route and didn’t even stop, not to mention the fact to show aggression and negative attitude.
the Protests continue: Nikol Pashinian is a plan of action, and his supporters block government buildings, block roads in the center of Yerevan. Law enforcement officers intervene more and more actively. The ending of this confrontation — barring unforeseen incidents — largely a foregone conclusion.
Discontent is spilling into public shares, not new for Armenia. Every election for the last 27 years was accompanied by protests. People went on the streets in 2016 — after the last parliamentary elections; in 2015 — against the increase in electricity tariffs; in 2013 — after the re-election of Serzh Sargsyan the President of Armenia and after the increase of the tariff for public transport and so on.
It is typical for a country where according to official data, almost 30 percent of the population is poor. It’s about a million people. Here you can add 16 percent unemployment, the annual reduction of the population in the tens of thousands and a strong dependence on external labor markets. In 2016, only in Russia there were 528 thousand migrants from Armenia (population slightly less than three million), and by the end of 2017, labour migrants moved to Armenia 1.7 billion dollars with the expenditure of the state budget of slightly more than three billion (in 2018).
All this makes chronic protests, and street protests are inevitable. But every time political protests in Armenia faded by themselves.
the fact that the opposition has no resources and funds to achieve its goal, there is still no positive political agenda. As a result, on Wednesday, April 18, to the naked eye it was evident that the streets were less people than the day before. And the more active the police, the less space for maneuver remains at Nikol Pashinian and his supporters.
Prime Minister of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, in turn, receives congratulations from abroad and appoints members of the government. There’s still a political eternity.