Armenian people do not "swallow" Sargsyan's deception

Mikhail Belyaev, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Armenian people do not "swallow" Sargsyan's deception

Serzh Sargsyan's script picked up from Mikhail Saakashvili for preserving power by changing the constitution and transferring real power to the prime minister, which the ex-president becomes after the second term of office, has failed. Armenia's citizens did not forget about Sargsyan's deceitful promises he made in 2014 that he will not assume the role of prime minister after adopting constitutional amendments.

Four years later, as it turned out, "the situation has changed," and, due to international challenges, Armenia urgently needed an "experienced leader," which is of course none other than Serge Sargsyan, who leads the country to the bright, according to him, future. Juggling with the "economic achievement" numbers over the years of his rule, Sargsyan practically ignores the highest level of poverty and a mass exodus of skilled labour force fleeing the country against the background of the absolutely deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After all, Serzh Sargsyan, who personifies the "Karabakh clan" and who came to power with a nationalistic wave, will not make concessions at talks with Azerbaijan. "The independence of Karabakh" is the very last thing the Republican Party of Armenia holds on to as an argument for the success of its policy.

The protests that have gripped Armenia for more than a week have reached a previously unprecedented scale. But in the beginning nobody - neither the authorities nor the opposition - believed in the possibility of success of the "My step" initiative of the Civil Contract Party member, the deputy of the National Assembly and former political prisoner Nikol Pashinyan. If in the first days, the authorities tried to turn a blind eye to the protests, imitating democracy and a willingness to ensure freedom of rallies, then today they have obviously started to get emotional. The number of detainees is steadily growing, it comes to hundreds, and the total number of detainees during the protests is almost one thousand people. The Aravot newspaper reported that on April 22 alone, more than 250 people were detained, many of them were arrested. Three opposition MPs are under arrest. Clashes with the police are becoming more frequent with new reports coming of the people wounded in clashes with members of the security forces.

Despite numerous calls for dialogue on the part of the authorities, it seems that it is not ready for a real dialogue more than Pashinyan, who does not call into question his demand for Sargsyan's resignation. Today, an attempt was made to negotiate, however, the Prime Minister interrupted the meeting with Nikol Pashinyan almost immediately after it began, saying that the opposition figures did not learn from the events of March 1, 2008. It was an extremely careless phrase in conditions of the Armenian society brought to the boiling point. Ten years ago, the police, by order of the Sargsyan-Kocharyan tandem, opened fire on demonstrators who rallied against massive falsifications during the elections, marking the assumption of power by Serzh Sargsyan - killing eight people.

Simultaneously, the State Security Service of Armenia is stamping "horror stories" about terrorist attacks allegedly planned by supporters of Sasna Tsrer during the ongoing rallies. Armenia's Ministry of Defense and the Intelligence, in turn, warn about the forthcoming "provocations" from Azerbaijan, which allegedly is preparing to use internal political turmoil in Armenia to achieve its military goals in Karabakh. One gets the impression that Armenia's entire state machine is currently aimed at diverting the attention of protesters under various pretexts and calling them to "common sense", which means staying at home and agree with Sargsyan's further rule as prime minister.

Meanwhile, the number of protesters on the streets is increasing day by day. According to various sources, the number of demonstrators that took to the streets varies from 35 to 40 thousand people. At the time of writing the article, the Republic Square in Yerevan was packed with protesters, despite the arrest of the leader of the Reject Serzh movement, Nikol Pashinyan and his closest supporters, opposition Armenian sites write about more than a hundred thousand people gathered there, and a bird's eye view photos confirm widespread nature of the protest. The arrest of Pashinyan, who has parliamentary immunity, testifies to the frank fear of the Armenian government, which reaction to events is increasingly inadequate, including stealing disliked politicians. At the same time, as Vestnik Kavkaza reported earlier, cultural figures started to turn away from the authorities, refusing their state titles and awards. Famous American-Armenian singer Serj Tankian, who is very popular among Armenians, also called for the immediate dismissal of the incumbent prime minister. The Armenian diaspora in the West fully supports Pashinyan (who, by the way, voted against the ratification of the agreement on Armenia's membership in the EEU), as evidenced by the numerous actions of the Armenian diaspora in the US and France in support of the anti-Sargsyan movement.

Nikol Pashinyan hit the authorities in a very painful for it moment: on the eve of April 24 - events dedicated to the so-called Armenian genocide, traditionally accompanied by mass events, numerous foreign visits and activization of the society.

It is noteworthy that the reaction of Russia is still as restrained as possible - the Kremlin is in no hurry to speak in support of Sargsyan. Obviously, Moscow hasn't decided whether to interfere in the internal Armenian events on the side of a politician who discredited himself in the eyes of his own people. According to independent sociological research, the level of approval of Sargsyan's policy is below 20%. The European Union, in turn, urged the Armenian authorities to immediately release all those arrested, while exercising their fundamental right of assembly

In the current situation, the reaction of the Armenian clergy, whose representatives are in the forefront of protest marches, is extremely interesting - officially to prevent clashes between demonstrators and police officers. Today the situation can develop in any direction. The authorities will continue to rely on the fact that the protest will choke, because its leaders were "neutralized." On the other hand, the electrification of the society has already occurred, and the illegal detention of Pashinyan and his supporters under arrest may have the opposite effect, only increasing public discontent, not to mention international criticism. Finally, despite the numerous threats of the Armenian police to disperse the protests, they do not move to real large-scale actions, which is regarded as a sign of weakness. In any case, Serzh Sargsyan's position is extremely precarious today - one mistake, one careless word, and he may end up like Viktor Yanukovich.