People Forced to Serzh Sargsyan Rally in Gyumri

Serzh Sargsyan Rally in Gyumri © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007
Levon Barseghyan, Chairman of the board of Journalists’ Club “Asparez” just came round bringing photos of today’s rally held in Gyumri in support of Prime Minister, Presidential candidate Serzh Sargsyan.

The rally seems to have attracted a large crowd, almost as big as the rally in support of Levon Ter-Petrossian held a week ago in Gyumri. There is a striking difference in the two rallies however. The Ter-Petrossian rally attracted a huge crowd, from what I’m being told from various sources, bigger then the Serzh Sargsyan rally, despite the fact, that the authorities were doing everything possible to prevent it from happening, including warning messages to business owners, school headmasters, etc.

Serzh Sargsyan Rally in Gyumri © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007
The same administrative resources were at work also trying to attract a larger crowd for Serzh Sargsyan, in an apparent effort to exceed the size of the crowd, who came, on their own free will, to listen to Ter-Petrossian. Shirak Marzpetaran (regional administration), Gyumri municipality, headmasters of schools, universities, institutes, tax inspection officials, police – all worked hard as they could, as can be seen from photos below. People were brought in in buses, whereas in the case of Ter-Petrossian rally I drove around several blocks trying to find any buses or other transport which could have brought people and didn’t find any.

Sahak Minasyan, head of Shirak Education department © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007 Boris Alexanov, Former Deputy Marzpet © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007

Shirak governor, Lida Nanyan and Gyumri Mayor Vardan Ghukasyan escorting Serzh Sargsyan through rally © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007
As media have reported in numerous cases, as well as bloggers like Onnik Krikoryan has pointed out, schools are used extensively to assemble crowds. This could be seen in this case as well:

School children brought to Serzh Sargsyan rally © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007
Needless to say that this is gross misuse of administrative levers, but it is also a pointless one – as these children have no right to vote, and are brought there for sheer PR reasons – so the government controlled TV commentators and reporters can show there was a bigger crowd. Will that help Serzh Sargsyan in 4 days time – when people actually go to polling stations, remains to be seen…

Serzh Sargsyan Rally in Gyumri © Levon Barseghyan, Gyumri, Armenia, February 15, 2007

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. Looks like the May 1 parades of the communist era.

  2. You know, I’m tired of all these stupid mega-campaign meetings. They are designed to mislead and be used for propaganda purposes. In last year’s parliamentary election, for example, the largest crowd Raffi Hovannisian and Heritage spoke to was about 100 people yet they still attracted many more times the number of votes as those parties — Impeachment, Republic etc — who assembled 15,000 people at the height of their campaign in Liberty Square and who failed to attract enough to get into parliament.
    If anything, I think these rallies are undemocratic. Of course, another suggestion would be to just scrap the whole election period and just count how many people in one area for a campaign as this is pretty much what everybody is doing despite the fact that I know only two people (excluding journalists) who know who they’re going to vote for and who attended a rally. Moreover, I lament the fact that in 2003 various candidates held meetings with voters in the districts of Yerevan. This time round, only one came to my area and that was Serge.
    Arrogance. Complete arrogance. Voters should go to the candidate? Or is it supporters? Anyway, as soon as the pro-Ter-Petrossian press started to inflate the number for those attending his rallies, someone actually warned that this would happen. Instead of thinking democratically about the million plus voters sitting at home, the sight of 15-30,000 people either bussed in, paid to attend, or wavering in between has been used to analyze this election.
    In my opinion, that’s the saddest part of elections in Armenia. There really is no comprehension of what democracy means. Of course, it’s not actually the vote that matters, though, is it? It’s whether you can get 15-30,000 people angry enough to confront the security forces the day after. Sad and it desperately needs to change. Indeed, I’d suggest amendments to the electoral code defining what “campaigning” is, prohibiting the use of pop stars to hold free concerts, and making Republic Square, Liberty Square and Matenadaran off limits.
    Let them walk the streets, meet potential voters and only hold a mass rally for supporters at the end of the campaign.

  3. Interesting, Dashnaks think it was by design:

    The Dashnaktsutyun leader hit out at the government camp as well. “The authorities have made every effort to ensure that this [presidential] struggle takes place in an apolitical atmosphere, in the dark, at the level of slogans and rallies,” he said.
    Markarian claimed in particular that they have deliberately thwarted a “clash of political views, ideas and platforms” during the election campaign by restricting its coverage by the country’s main TV stations loyal to the government and forcing them not to broadcast campaign ads in prime time.

  4. Well, the rallies are an important part of a campaign. It is one way to convey the ideas of a candidate. Since the media is effectively closed for some of the candidates, rallies are one of the few ways to deliver these ideas to a large audience.
    In Serzh Sargsian’s case it is truly ridiculous. He not only violates the law by being a candidate and a PM at the same time, he coerces his employees to show up in these rallies.

  5. Nazarian, my point is that you cannot expect undecided voters to come to listen to you. You have to go to them. Yes, there are flyers and DVDs and all the rest of it, but anyway.
    As for the media, yes, not a good situation, but better than in 2003. Moreover, the same goes for the conduct of rallies.
    Technically I’d say this election is a vast improvement over 2003. In terms of actual ideas, policies and political culture, it’s lamentable.

  6. […] post looks as the use of administrative resources by the prime minister to assemble an audience for a pre-election campaign meeting in Gyumri and the use of black […]

  7. I feel really sorry for my people that can’t tell NO and don’t take these buses when they don’t want to go. For people that can’t stay away of taking bribes and vote for the candicdate they want.
    Probably it’s too early or too late for us to become democratic country and appreciate the fact that you are able to be free and have your own opinion!

Comments are closed.