[WSMDiscuss] Armenia in movement…. : Armenian PM resigns after days of protests / Armenia protests : Soldiers join demonstrators as unrest continues /

JS CACIM jai.sen at cacim.net
Tue Apr 24 09:03:37 CEST 2018


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Armenia in movement….

['Breaking news', on the run; though it’s unclear from these reports as to the background of the protests and of what has transpired - and therefore, what lies ahead :

Armenian PM resigns after days of protests

BBC

Armenia protests : Soldiers join demonstrators as unrest continues

BBC

Armenia unrest : Protesters rally after leader detained

BBC

            JS

Serzh Sargsyan: Armenian PM resigns after days of protests

9 hours ago
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Media captionSupporters mob Armenian protest leader Nikol Pashinyan after PM resigns
There were scenes of jubilation in the Armenian capital Yerevan after protests forced the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan.

Opposition supporters accused Mr Sargsyan, who was made prime minister last week after serving 10 years as president, of clinging to power.

"The street movement is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand," Mr Sargsyan said in a statement.

Former prime minister Karen Karapetyan has taken over as acting PM.

President Armen Sarkissian accepted Mr Sargsyan's and the government's resignation.

Mr Sargsyan's announcement came soon after opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was released from detention. Mr Pashinyan had been arrested on Sunday after he called for Mr Sargsyan's resignation during televised talks.

As well as Mr Pashinyan, two other opposition politicians and some 200 demonstrators were held.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Demonstrators rallied again in the capital Yerevan on Monday
In his statement published on his website, Mr Sargsyan said he was "addressing all citizens of the Republic of Armenia... for the last time as leader of the country."

"Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong," he said. "The situation has several solutions, but I will not take any of them... I am leaving office of the country's leader, of prime minister."

His spokesman, Hovhannes Nikoghosyan, told the BBC that Mr Sargsyan was behaving responsibly and fulfilling the demands of the street movement which opposed his appointment as prime minister.

"I think his resignation is a clear demonstration of a democracy in force. It's not that every demonstration in every corner of the world leads to the resignation of the authorities," Mr Nikoghosyan said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest
Protesters chanted "Nikol, Nikol" in the streets on Monday, the 11th straight day of protests. They were joined by hundreds of uniformed soldiers, despite warnings from the defence ministry that any soldiers protesting would be harshly punished.

Mr Pashinyan congratulated the people on their "victory" following the resignation. "You have won, proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia. And no-one can seize this victory from you. I congratulate you, victorious people," he wrote on Facebook.

Mr Sargsyan had faced criticism in Armenia over his close ties to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who has also moved between roles as president and prime minister to maintain his grip on power.

Mr Putin's spokesman said on Monday that Moscow was closely watching events in Yerevan. "We are very attentively observing what is happening in Armenia," Dmitry Peskov told journalists, calling the country "extremely important" for Russia.

Asked if Russia would intervene, Mr Peskov said the matter was "exclusively an internal affair" and Russian action would be "absolutely inappropriate".

At the scene

Rayhan Demytrie in Yerevan

Jubilation filled the Republic Square in Yerevan as people cracked open bottles of champagne, dancing in the fountain, hugging and waving flags.

"This is what victory feels like," said Lena, wrapped in the Armenian tricolour. "This is a day to live for, this is the day to be here to witness history!" said her husband Armen.

When Mr Pashinyan arrived at Republic Square after being released, the people chanted his name and "Victory!".

Shortly after, news broke that Mr Sargsyan had resigned and it was as if a firework of joy had exploded in the square. Many here say it is a victory for the whole nation, that the people stood up for democracy and won. And it came on the eve of April 24, which Armenians worldwide mark as Remembrance Day for the victims of mass killings of Armenians at the turn of the 20th century in Ottoman Turkey.

The events in Armenia are significant, because they demonstrate that in a post-Soviet country change is possible through a peaceful, organic, grassroots movement. The fact that the Armenian authorities showed restraint and did not use excessive force against the demonstrators is also an achievement.

But it's important to remember that the new acting prime minister is an old ally of Mr Sargsyan. Only the leadership has changed.

Why were there protests?

In 2015, Armenians voted in a referendum to shift the country from a presidential to a parliamentary system, stripping powers from the president and giving them to the prime minister.

The vote was marred by allegations of ballot rigging and claims Mr Sargsyan wanted to simply switch office after his presidency ended.

The ex-president had formally stated he would "not aspire" to the prime ministerial position, but on Tuesday last week the country's parliament officially confirmed Mr Sargsyan in the post.

Protesters poured into the streets in the days beforehand to try to stop the parliament from passing the measure, and clashed with police. On the day of the confirmation, Mr Pashinyan said the demonstrations constituted a "non-violent velvet revolution".

Who is Serzh Sargsyan?

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Sargsyan has been criticised for his close ties to Russia
Mr Sargsyan served two consecutive terms as president of Armenia, starting in 2008 and ending on 9 April this year. His initial election in 2008 prompted deadly clashes between the state and opposition supporters. At least eight people died.

He won a second five-year term in 2013. Several of his opponents dropped out of the race and one candidate was shot in a suspected assassination attempt.

Mr Sargsyan was also accused of failing to address continuing tensions with Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as widespread poverty at home.


Armenia protests: Soldiers join demonstrators as unrest continues

23 April 2018
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43865003 <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43865003>
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Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Armenia's defence ministry warned demonstrating soldiers they would be harshly punished
Armenian soldiers have joined protests against the prime minister in the country's capital Yerevan.

There have been days of protests against Serzh Sargsyan, who was recently appointed PM after being president for 10 years.

The defence ministry warned soldiers who participated that they would be harshly punished.

Monday's rallies followed the arrest of protest leader Nikol Pashinyan on Sunday. He has now been released.

This is the 11th day of demonstrations against Mr Sargsyan, who held talks with Mr Pashinyan - an opposition MP - on Sunday before he was detained.

Live footage from the protests <https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-fresh-protests-sarkisian-yerevan-pashinian/29186416.html> in Yerevan has shown unarmed soldiers mixing with the demonstrators and waving the Armenian flag.

The AFP news agency reports that those marching with protesters include army veterans who served in the war against Azerbaijan, which broke out at the end of the Soviet era.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption This is the 11th day of protests in Armenia
Local media report that nearly all the universities in Yerevan, and many schools, are on strike, with doctors also said to be marching.

Tens of thousands have marched in the capital and other cities in recent days.

Protesters say they will demonstrate until Mr Sargsyan steps down.

Why are there protests?

In 2015, Armenians voted in a referendum to shift the country from a presidential to a parliamentary system <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35025853>, stripping powers from the president and giving them to the prime minister.

The vote was marred by allegations of ballot rigging and claims Mr Sargsyan wanted to simply switch office after his presidency ended.

The ex-president had formally stated he would "not aspire" for the prime minister position.

Armenia country profile <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17398605>
New Armenia PM sworn in despite protests <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43794910>
President tries personal touch at protest <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43852822>
But on Tuesday last week the country's parliament officially confirmed Mr Sargsyan in the post.

Protesters had poured into the streets in the days beforehand to try to stop the parliament from passing the measure and clashed with police.

On the day of the confirmation, Mr Pashinyan said the demonstrations constitute a "non-violent velvet revolution".

Armenia unrest: Protesters rally after leader detained

22 April 2018
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http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43854352 <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43854352> 

Media captionThere were scuffles as Nikol Pashinyan was detained
Thousands of anti-government protesters have rallied defiantly in the Armenian capital Yerevan after riot police seized their leader.

Nikol Pashinyan was arrested after televised talks with Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan collapsed.

In a tense exchange, the opposition MP insisted the PM should quit and Mr Sargsyan accused him of "blackmail".

The opposition object to Mr Sargsyan clinging to power after serving two consecutive terms as president.

He was elected to the post by parliament on Tuesday, fuelling anger on the streets.

As well as Mr Pashinyan, two other opposition politicians and some 200 demonstrators have been held, leaving the protest movement without political leadership.

The EU, which has a partnership agreement with Armenia, called on all sides to "show restraint and act responsibly".

Armenia country profile <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17398605>
Protesters undeterred

By Rayhan Demytrie, BBC News, in Armenia's capital Yerevan

Armenia's biggest square is full of protesters. The detention of Mr Pashinyan and other opposition leaders did not stop protesters from turning up. They are holding placards that read "I am Nikol" and chanting his name, along with another slogan, "Serzh go".

University student Elina Isahanyan, wrapped in the Armenian flag, says she has been participating in the protests for nine days.

"My friends and I are not attending classes. This is our way to show to this new government that we want change," she says.

"We are peaceful and we don't want any violence. We don't want the police to be against us."

Buses loaded with police in flak jackets can be seen in the streets leading up to the square. The justice ministry issued a warning reminding citizens that the police have the right to disperse demonstrations regardless of the nature of the protests. 

Protests against Mr Sargsyan have been held in other parts of Armenia - the second largest city of Guymri and the city of Vanadzor.

How did Sunday's meeting fall apart?

Mr Pashinyan was previously jailed over his part in protests against Mr Sargsyan in 2008. He recently described the campaign he leads as a "velvet revolution", referring to the peaceful protests in 1989 that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia.

He met Mr Sargsyan at a hotel in Yerevan on Sunday morning, in the presence of dozens of journalists.

The exchange was brief. After the prime minister said he was glad his rival had "responded to my numerous appeals to negotiate", Mr Pashinyan struck an uncompromising note.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption PM Serzh Sargsyan denounced Mr Pashinyan's "blackmail" before aborting their meeting
"I think there is a misunderstanding," he said. "I have come here to discuss the terms of your resignation and the terms of a peaceful and smooth transition of power."

Mr Sargsyan said that "this is not a dialogue, this is blackmail" and left.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Scuffles broke out between police and protesters on Sunday
Addressing the assembled reporters afterwards, Mr Pashinyan called on his supporters to continue their protests, which have continued for more than a week.

He was detained shortly afterwards, as riot police using stun grenades dispersed protesters.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Masked police have been holding back the crowds
His supporters then gathered outside a police station where they believed he was being held before they set off towards the capital's central Republic Square.

Why is there such anger at Serzh Sargsyan?

He has been accused of failing to address continuing tensions with Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as widespread poverty at home.

His government has also been criticised by the opposition for its close ties to Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin also moved between the positions of president and prime minister to maintain his grip on power. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-15045816>
While he was president, the country shifted from a presidential system to a parliamentary republic, vesting real power in the office of the prime minister.

He stood for prime minister despite promising he would not.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Here Serzh Sargsyan's face is scored out on a poster
His supporters argue that the tough veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan in the late 1980s has provided the national security Armenia needs.

What dangers lie ahead?

Serzh Sargsyan, who served as president from 2008 until this year, has been left largely unchallenged for years because of a lack of clear rivals and alternatives, Armenian affairs analyst Richard Giragosian <https://twitter.com/Richard_RSC> tells BBC News.

"Pashinyan was the exception with his unique combination of charisma with a good sense of street politics, which only makes this current confrontation more serious." he says.

The power of the ruling Republican Party is potentially even more dangerous as it "undermines the necessity for consensus and compromise".

"The real question now is what lies ahead. After such polarisation and dissent, the launch of parliamentary politics seems destined to fail, undermined by an inherent lack of trust or public confidence."

However the crisis plays out, "there is little or no foreign policy dimension", he adds. "It is not about Russia and not about Europe. It is local politics and economics."



______________________________

Jai Sen

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