Armenians on the verge of a regime overthrow
April 22, 2018 8:47 PM   Subscribe

The President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, changed the constitution so that Armenia went from a semi-presidential state to a parliamentary one. Then he made himself Prime Minister immediately after his last presidential term. Armenian citizens, led by Internet-savvy opposition leaders under a coalition called Yelk (Way Out), dominated by the Civil Contract Party, now number possibly more than 150,000 people (~5% of the population) in the streets and more engaging in acts of disobedience from their homes.

Nikol Pashinyan, a longtime opposition leader and member of Parliament, walked around the country for 2 weeks (while livestreaming) leading up to Sargsyan's Prime Minister induction ceremony, trying to drum up support for protesting Sargsyan's becoming PM. [RFE/RL English language report on the walk] The walk ended on April 13 in the capital, Yerevan, first with a stop at the main state university, calling on students to join him, especially related to corruption in the university and that university leadership was pressuring students to not join the movement and ending with a large rally of about 5000 people on the 13th, demanding that Sargsyan not be made PM [RFE/RL English language coverage of the rally 1] [RFE/RL 2] [Eurasianet] [CivilNet English language coverage of the rally] with at least 30,000 livestream viewers.

Supporters camped out in French Square over that weekend with, surprisingly, little police resistance, as opposed to previous actions. [Eurasianet]

On Monday April 16 the goals were to create blockades throughout the city, especially major intersections, and to march to the Parliament building. The Monday April 16 action specifically was declared peaceful and leaders explicitly rejected violence and use of force, although police began to be more aggressive. Pashinyan hurt his hand during a police scuffle [video]. 10,000 people attended the April 16 evening rally. [Eurasianet events of the day] [Civilnet English language video report]

On April 17, Sargsyan was made PM and in the evening events Pashinyan stated: "I officially declare: Armenia has entered a revolutionary situation, and I hereby announce the start of a peaceful, people’s velvet revolution." [Eurasianet English language events of the day 1] [Eurasianet English language events of the day 2]

April 18 was a growth day. Some claim that 5 million people watched the evening rally livestream.

On April 19, a goal to close all city streets was made while organizations, businesses, institutions, and schools started actively protesting too and allowing employees to leave to join, according to some. The evening rally brought about the demands and objectives:
1. Serzh Sargsyan’s departure from the Armenian government as their primary demand
2. The movement’s main objective is to put the government in the hands of the people
3. The movement is neither pro-western or pro-Russian, but rather puts the interests of Armenia and its people first
4. Movement leader Nikol Pashinyan promised to raise the wages of police officers and civil servants after Sargsyan’s resignation as prime minister
5. Pashinyan now refers to the movement as a “revolution” that is unstoppable
6. Pashinyan called what is taking place today a process where “Armenians are rediscovering their love and respect for their fellow Armenians”
7. Pashinyan called on all civil servants and police officers to either remain home tomorrow or else join the movement to oust Serzh Sargsyan from office
[Eurasianet English language write up on the day] [Civilnet English language video report]

On April 20 the protesters moved throughout the city to drum up more support.
At this point, the police stepped up quite a bit, with hundreds detentions reported. [Eurasianet English language reporting on the events of the day] Some claim 50,000 attendees at the evening rally. [Civilnet English language video report]

On April 21, PM Sargsyan responded to the protest in a written statement and the new President of Armenia met with Pashinyan.
Approximately 50,000 people attended the evening rally in Republic Square, according to wire reports, but others claim 150,000 or more.

April 22 was a turning point. PM Sarsgsyan agreed to meet with Pashinyan in the morning and it was dramatic. Pashinyan in a ball cap, camo t-shirt, cargo pants, and backpack, waited as Sargsyan entered the hotel ballroom. Sargsyan called the meeting a negotiation and Pashinyan held firm, saying that it was for his resignation. Sargsyan referenced past police violence and told Pashinyan that he had not learned his lesson. [English subtitled video of meeting] [English text of meeting]

An hour later, Pashinyan and other Civil Contract leaders were detained. As of this posting, Pashinyan continues to be moved around between police precincts and his family and attorneys have not been able to speak to him. [Eurasianet on events of the day] But the arrests only shook the movement briefly, and the largest number of protesters entered Republic Square in the evening - possibly exceeding 200,000. This was the first evening event without Pashinyan, but others, including his wife, spoke in his place. [Civilnet English language video report] But not everyone is in the street. On April 22, many citizens engaged in a 15 minute banging of pots and pans on their balconies. [RFE/RL]

Arial footage from April 22 [video] [video 2]. Photo comparisons of the crowd over the days.

April 23 calls for another mass demonstration. April 24 remains to be seen - it is Armenian Genocide Memorial day and undoubtedly will be politicized.

Interesting tidbits:
- The protesters are quite young. RFE/RL had a nice feature on what motivates the youth. Photos of brave kids are rampant.
- Nikol Pashinyan is a thoughtful speaker that uses a lot of inclusive language and he has a long history criticizing the government, including a stint in prison. RFE/RL on his background.
- Hashtags are not that important, but in English #rejectserzh dominates and in Armenian, #մերժիրսերժին .
- Nearly all news and discussion is on Facebook, although there is some on Twitter and Instagram under those hashtags.
- In 2015 large protests about electricity price hikes "Electric Yerevan" were good training for young protesters.
- Armenian public opinion polls support the idea that people are angry.

Live streams:
Nikol Pashinyan's Facebook livestream is fairly constant
Radio Free Europe - mostly Armenian, but most constant coverage, Facebook, YouTube
CivilNet - has English-language coverage every few hours, Facebook, YouTube
posted by k8t (27 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Because someone will ask...

Serj Tankian cares and supports the protestors
No Kardashian has commented yet
posted by k8t at 8:47 PM on April 22, 2018

Graphic attempts at determining crowd size.
posted by k8t at 8:51 PM on April 22, 2018

Thanks for this informative post! Is rfe the best place to follow this story in English?
posted by potrzebie at 9:31 PM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting this information on something that's barely being covered in US news. I hope things turn out well.
posted by happyroach at 10:15 PM on April 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Eurasianet has the best summaries for those wanting to follow from afar but without context. RFE/RL doesn't usually give the context.
posted by k8t at 11:56 PM on April 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Today so far... A large group of soldiers joined the protest. The arrested MPs including Pashinyan were freed.
posted by k8t at 4:37 AM on April 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sargsyan resigned!
posted by k8t at 5:22 AM on April 23, 2018 [12 favorites]

English language version of resignation.

At 6:30pm local time (about 2 hours from now), a victory rally will be held. The leaders want a nap after being in solitary for 24 hours.
posted by k8t at 5:40 AM on April 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

The resignation letter is humane. I am shocked and teary. Good for the protestors.

Edited to add: Thanks for making this post. I learned a LOT about something I was barely cognizant of these past few days.
posted by indianbadger1 at 8:22 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

The resignation letter is humane. I am shocked and teary. Good for the protestors.

Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong. The situation has several solutions, but I will not take any of them. That is not mine. I am leaving office of the country’s leader, of Prime Minister.

The street movement is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand.

Peace, harmony and reasoning for our country.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

The resignation was so humane that I honestly thought it was a fake at first.

I have some theories as to why he changed his mind:
- The soldiers joining was powerful symbolically
- April 24 would have all eyes on him from the diaspora and people have the day off, so more would join the protest
- Some speculate that Sargsyan didn't want to be PM anyway.... also others speculate that Russia was tired of him and wanted someone more pro-Russia in power

The victory rally is quite powerful. I've been livetweeting/translating it but will write a summary in here when it is over.
posted by k8t at 8:57 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

The speech was incredible. Once there is an English version I will post.

But in terms of next steps... At the April 23rd victory rally, Pashinyan mapped out the next steps. He will meet with Karpetyan on Wednesday for some negotiations, but first, Sargsyan resigns. Next, within one week, Parliament elects the people's prime minister and an interim government is to be formed until parliamentary elections are called. Only the PM election and the release of political prisoners immediately have deadlines.
posted by k8t at 10:45 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

That's just amazing. It's also heartening to see peaceful mass protests succeed. I hope that things continue to go well in the transition.
posted by happyroach at 11:03 AM on April 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am typically pretty skeptical of many politicians but Nikol Pashinyan has long been my favorite. I have nothing bad to say about him. He is the real deal.
posted by k8t at 11:49 AM on April 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

That resignation message is really hard to imagine coming from any leader in any country currently in the news. Is there something specifically/culturally Armenian about such a disarming display of empathy, such a severe/sincere change of heart?
posted by progosk at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

The current narrative is that Sargsyan was so shocked that the protests didn't fall apart after the leaders were arrested that he changed his mind.

I doubt it.

But yeah, the phrasing was shocking.
posted by k8t at 2:08 PM on April 23, 2018

Kim K weighed in.
posted by k8t at 2:47 PM on April 23, 2018

Thank you for posting all of this.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:10 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wait, did a good thing happen in the world? I didn't even hear about this, thank you for posting. Wow. Good for the Armenian people!

(The problem of assuming that BBC World News will keep one updated on world events is that there is always a risk that a royal birth/death/marriage will push all other news off the screen. But American news outlets weren't covering it either, so...)
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:55 PM on April 24, 2018

There's something incredibly poignant about this happening so closely to the Genocide Remembrance Day.

Thank you so much for sharing it.
posted by dancing_angel at 6:48 PM on April 25, 2018

Update - there has been some in-fighting about electing the next PM and there was a new round of protests today. But it looks like things will get sorted out and the opposition parties have mostly agreed to nominated Pashinyan.
posted by k8t at 8:12 PM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Protests continue. 1 May the new PM will be voted in by the parliament, probably without the ruling party voting.
posted by k8t at 9:48 PM on April 27, 2018

The May 1 Parliamentary vote didn't go as planned and they stalled. May 8 will be another attempt at a Parliament vote and it looks more promising. Street protests continue.
posted by k8t at 4:53 PM on May 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

It has been such an overwhelming few weeks but yes, he's PM finally. Lots of celebrating before the hard work of building a country from -50 begins.
posted by k8t at 9:50 PM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you for keeping us up to date on this; I've appreciated following along here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

For those of you still following... We are now at the appointing cabinet stage and things are going well. He still live streams daily, often giving tours of the more outrageous extravagances of the government home.
posted by k8t at 9:34 PM on May 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

« Older So Here's Your Future   |   Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments