Armenia declares state of emergency
March 1, 2008 2:35 PM   Subscribe

On February 19, Armenia hosted a presidential election. The winner with 52% of the vote was (as expected), current Prime Minister and BFF to the current president, Serge Sargsyan. The runner-up with 21.5% of the vote was former president (taken out by the current president in 1997), Levon Ter-Petrossian. The elections were flawed, lots of people protested over the past week, the protests have gotten violent, LTP is under house arrest and the government has issued a 20 day state of emergency. At least 3 (including a police officer) have been killed.

BBC story, NYTimes story, ArmeniaNow (Western trained journalist, British and American editor, local reporters, UnZipped, a local English language blog, OneWorld Armenia, a British photojournalist's blog, Armenian Observer blog does an excellent job summarizing the Armenian and Russian language blogospheres as well as reporting his own material in English with text, videos and photos, although it is worth noting that he is not a fan of either candidate. There are many LiveJournal bloggers blogging as well, but Armenian Observer will likely summarize them.

Armenian Observer has an excellent summary of the past week here. Here are some highlights:

"The opposition protest, peaceful as it was, was held with violations of the RA Law on Gatherings and Peaceful protests. Usually, during the day, there would be from 20-40,000 opposition supporters gathering for the rally. The number tripled at least on one occasion, on February 26th, when people forcibly brought to the Republic square in Yerevan to support the pro-government candidate Serzh Sargsyan went over to join the rally in support of Serzh Sargsyan’s opponent - Ter-Petrossian."

"Despite numerous warnings from police, the President - the protesters stayed in the Liberty square day and night, sleeping in tents put up in the square and burning bonfires to get warm. During the 9 days of the protests, authorities launched a massive propaganda campaign against the Ter-Petrossian supporters, portraying protesters as armed rioters, drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless. Meanwhile a number of arrests of vocal opposition figures as well as Yerkrapah members (a union of former Karabakh war freedom fighters) were carried out. A case was reported, when State Security servicemen had joined the rally disguised, and tried to provoke the peaceful protesters for more aggressive actions, but had been prevented from doing so by organizers of the opposition rally."

"Today, after police strike, violence was reported, the opposition supporters tried to resist with stones and sticks. From what I know around 31 people have suffered so far, 6 of whom have been police officers. At the moment the Liberty square is chained by police forces."

"Police are claiming, that they had evidence about preparations by the opposition forces to distribute weapons and start violent actions. However, this morning during, and after the police attack on protesters, journalists were prevented from taking photos and videos, the camera of a Yerkir-Media TV operators was broken. Later, the police footage shows various types of weapons found in the Liberty square after police had cleared the place of the protesters, however, considering all the propaganda and dirty methods of police action we have seen so far, it is hard to believe, that this is not fabricated evidence."

"From various media reports we learn, that the police violently beat up those in the Liberty square and chased them down several streets. By 12 o’clock when I was near the French embassy, there were riot police forces blocking the area, with crowds of angry people squeezed between the police forces in front of the French embassy on Grigor Lusavorich street."
posted by k8t (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The British Embassy encouraged British citizens not to go out. The American Embassy encouraged American citizens to be careful.

Apparently the Internet isn't working very well in Armenia (probably not a coincidence), so refresh those webpages hosted in Armenia often.

Also: Armenian "repatritates" (ethnic Armenians, raised in the US, UK, etc., now living in Armenia) blog, opposition news A1+ (this will probably be on and off as well).

I have a personal investment here, as I am moving back to Armenia in 3 weeks!
posted by k8t at 2:40 PM on March 1, 2008

It's stories like this that make me feel that we're entering a period of prolonged unrest and chaos. I hope I'm wrong...
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:41 PM on March 1, 2008

That looks like a preview of what we're going to see in Russia:
Voting starts in Russian presidential election
Kremlin planning to rig election

Of course, that will never happen in America. We have plenty of "armed rioters, drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless", but they're all either politically apathetic or Pro-Bush.
posted by wendell at 2:55 PM on March 1, 2008

Thanks very much for the post; I was only vaguely aware of this stuff.

That looks like a preview of what we're going to see in Russia

Nonsense: if there's anything even vaguely resembling this in Russia, I'll eat all my hats. Putin is riding the wave of oil-wealth popularity and there is no opposition worthy of the name. Of course the election will be "rigged," everybody knows it, nobody particularly cares (aside from a few malcontents with no constituencies), and there isn't even really any point rigging it except to keep his hand in because everyone would vote for his hand-picked successor anyway. Russia is not Armenia.
posted by languagehat at 3:18 PM on March 1, 2008

The girl who lives across the hall from me is Armenian (born there, immigrated as a child, still speaks Armenian at home). She's been freaking out about this all afternoon. One of her favorite topics has always been "man, home is massively corrupt and fucked up," and I guess it never really hit me until now. It's pretty damn scary for her.

Thanks for this post. Now I at least feel a little more informed about this than I did.
posted by dismas at 3:30 PM on March 1, 2008

You're right, hatman, the chances of post-election unrest are even less in Russia than the U.S... I kinda realized that while RRTFAs (re-reading the fucking articles) before you posted. I guess my point is really that rigged elections are the norm these days, even when you don't need to (Russia) or when you can't possibly rig them enough to win (Pakistan).
posted by wendell at 3:55 PM on March 1, 2008

I guess my point is really that rigged elections are the norm these days,

I don't think that rigged elections are any more common these days than, say, 2 decades or more ago.

On the contrary. Technological means (exit polls, instant news propagation through the internet, statistical analysis etc.) has made rigging elections more difficult than it was in the past.

Unless you use electronic voting machines, of course.
posted by sour cream at 4:16 PM on March 1, 2008

Another aspect is that most parts of the world won't put up with rigged elections anymore. This is true for almost all of the former Soviet block countries (even though Russia seems to be lagging behind in this respect).

Curiously enough, the US seems to be running against this trend, as there were serious indications of voting anomalies in the past two elections, but nobody really seemed to care and this wasn't even covered to any serious extent by the mainstream media.
posted by sour cream at 4:20 PM on March 1, 2008

BBC says a 12 year old was killed.
posted by k8t at 7:18 PM on March 1, 2008

2008 is the new 1848.
posted by humanfont at 8:49 PM on March 1, 2008

Via Unzipped:
Most of the opposition supporters locked in a standoff with police in Armenia's capital ended their protest on Sunday but a group of around 60 refused to go home and set fire to abandoned police vehicles.
Most of the crowd, which numbered about 2,000, headed away from a square in the Armenian capital where they had been demonstrating after a message was read out from opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan urging them to go home.
posted by k8t at 9:24 PM on March 1, 2008

Via Blogian:

riting in Armenian, A1Plus states:

nDear readers,

State of emergency is declared in Armenia, and, under such circumstances and according to the law, it is prohibited to provide information on the political situation and developments. The state of emergency will last for 20 days; during this time you can read cultural, sports and official [political] news [provided by the authorities]. We are asking for your forgiveness.k

No news!
posted by k8t at 9:27 PM on March 1, 2008

State of emergency includes:

The 20-day state of emergency temporarily bans the following:

* Gatherings, protests, marches and other mass activities
* Strikes and activism leading to strikes
* Activities by those political parties and NGOs that have led to the state of emergency order

The order also states:

* Enforcement agencies, if necessary, may limit transportation routes and search individuals
* Media reports concerning “state and interior issues” can be published exclusively using official information provided by the authorities (does this apply to blogs based in Armenia?)
* [Distribution] of all kinds of political publications (print) are banned unless approved by the authorities
posted by k8t at 9:29 PM on March 1, 2008

This is really sad... I was hoping for better things for Armenia.

I think this quote from the NYT article says it all: "The Soviet Union is dead, the Soviet man is not." (What's going on in Armenia now is typical of how things were done in the Soviet Union.) I guess it's simply unrealistic to expect Armenia to form a government that is not thoroughly corrupt so quickly after breaking free from the Soviet Union.

I hope things work out for you in Armenia, k8t.
posted by epimorph at 12:51 AM on March 2, 2008

8 killed
posted by k8t at 8:09 AM on March 2, 2008

Other cities are having protests too:

Today, there were attempts to continue spontaneous gatherings (rally) in Theatrical sq in a second city of Armenia – Gyumri (Gyumri residents were rallying there last evening). However, the Theatrical sq was cordoned off by police forces from early morning. Police tried to disperse gatherings but people still kept coming. They argued that “state of emergency applies to Yerevan only, but not to regions” or that “it is not a rally; just people get together to discuss the situation”. People expressed their anger against violent crackdown of opposition movement in Yerevan. They were there to protest and express their solidarity with Yerevan demonstrators. Eyewitness reports on at least one case of police knocking down an elderly person. At the end, police managed to dispers people.
posted by k8t at 10:45 AM on March 2, 2008

Radio Liberty is not allowed to broadcast:
posted by k8t at 10:45 AM on March 2, 2008

YouTube is now blocked.
posted by k8t at 7:37 PM on March 2, 2008

Most of the opposition websites and news sites hosted in .AM have been taken down.
posted by k8t at 9:19 PM on March 2, 2008

IWPR has some great reporting.

posted by k8t at 11:28 AM on March 3, 2008

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