I’ve been repeatedly surprised in recent days with the contradictions I see in the reactions of Armenian authorities to the round-the-clock rallies staged by the Armenian National Congress (HAK) in Yerevan’s Liberty square. Continue reading “Surprises in air (TV air) and in the toilets as opposition protest continues”
The leader of Armenia’s largest opposition group Armenian National Congress Levon Ter-Petrossian announced the start of one-week long non-stop rallies today, in a long awaited decisive move, following days of speculation as to what exactly the opposition will do when they see that the authorities have no intention of returning to dialogue. Continue reading “Opposition takes long-awaited decisive steps”
For the first time since leaving his presidential post in April 2008 and departing from the political scene, Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharian has indicated readiness to return to “big politics.” Continue reading “Ex-President Robert Kocharian speaks of return to politics”
Quite predictably, the internet discussions over the past several days focused primarily on the congress held by opposition forces and the first public speech made by the opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian since the post-election violence on March 1st.
Opposition Congress, May 2, 2008 | Source: Unzipped
While speculating, that anyone “who made claims that they received 65% of the votes, accuses the present government of being murderers  but is not presenting evidence to back his claims, can not be taken seriously“, Martuni or Bust!!! looks at the overall context of the opposition congress, concluding:
It looks as if things have not really settled down since the fraudulent elections and the killing of March 1st. The noticeable unrest is going longer than I was expecting and who knows, maybe this time around the truth really will come out and those who need to be put in their place will finally get what they have coming.
Bringing a more comprehensive analysis, the Caucasus Knot speculates, that “the radical opposition appears ready to negotiate with the authorities in order to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence which left at least 10 dead“, and concludes, that this first public speech by Ter-Petrossian since the March 1 disturbances “certainly represents a more conciliatory line“:
Interestingly, Ter-Petrossian was reportedly more conciliatory towards the new president, Serge Sargsyan.  Ter-Petrossian instead directed his main attack on the former president, Robert Kocharian. Whether his words mark a realization from Ter-Petrossian that the radical opposition is unable to contest the outcome of the vote on the streets is a moot point.
Whatever the view, however, and whatever the numbers, there is the basis for discussion and negotiations in the form of Council of Europe Resolution 1609. In particular, it calls on the radical opposition to recognize the constitutional court ruling confirming the results of the presidential election as well as on the government to release those detained on purely political grounds. Another demand is for an independent inquiry into the 1 March riot to be held.
Marking the fact, that Levon Ter-Petrossian has “effectively expressed readiness for a dialogue based on PACE recommendations”, pro-opposition blogger Unzipped disagrees with the statement, “directly accepting PACE call to opposition to recognise the Constitutional Court’s decision which approved the election results” in the opposition leader’s speech, speculating, that:
“Fraud in elections was the main reason which sparked the protests, and ‘acceptance’ of its results for practical reasons to move forward cannot be considered as a precondition (and never presented as such by PACE) but rather a part of a final outcome of negotiations (with a package of measures aimed at democratisation of Armenian society).”
Known for his outspoken dislike of the first president, Pigh has singled out some soundbites in Ter-Petrossian’s speech, hinting, that such approaches are inconsistent with the “role” of the opposition leader, and are making him a “tool”, which works more in favor of the ruling Republican and ARF-Dashnaktsutyun parties:
One [of the soundbites] was directed at the US Government and the “Millenium Challanges” corporation, calling upon them to abstain from cutting aid to Armenia, as it will hurt the people, not the authorities..
Secondly – the first president spoke about the neighboring Azerbaijan in particular, noting, that Baku has to finally realize, that regardless the internal political situation in Armenia, “it would meet with a united resistance of the Armenian people in the event of unleashing a military aggression against Karabakh”
Interestingly, the issue of US assitance to Armenia has also drawn criticism from the highly pro-Ter-Petrossian blogger, Nazarian:
In the speech below, Levon Ter-Petrosian is against some of the things I have been advocating such as the stopping of the US economic aid to Armenia. I disagree with him and will continue to push for the (hopefully short term) halt of American taxpayer money propping up the banditocracy in Armenia. One of the best ways to modify someone’s behavior is through financial (dis)incentives.
And while Uzogh wonders, what has really triggered such a drastic change in LTP’s perceptions of current political realities, Unzipped on his turn, highlights the importance of the authorities’ response to opposition leaders apparent call for dialogue based on Counil of Europe Parliamentary Assembley recommendations:
How serious is Armenian government in terms of making necessary reforms and changes in accordance with the PACE recommendations, and engaging in a dialogue with the opposition, will be known on 10 May when a committee created by a decree of Serj Sargsyan will present its action plan.
On March 11 Levon Ter-Petrossian met with the reporters. Based on the post-electoral tradition, this meeting as well took place at the first president’s house that is still being controlled by the special guards’ forces. Ter-Petrossian covered the Constitutional Court decision. He reminded the details of his speech at the Constitutional Court trial, drawing the attention of the court to two legal issues.
The first was about the article 78.1 of the Electoral Code, according to which the prime minister could be registered as a presidential candidate only in one case – if he had the status of an acting president of Armenia.The second issue was about the article 53.1 of the Constitution, according to which “during martial law or state of emergency no elections of the President of the Republic shall be held.” According to Ter-Petrossian, CC was obligated to express its attitude concerning these two issues, reaching a certain conclusion, which, however, did not happen.“This means one thing – the Constitutional Court avoided covering the most objectionable grounds putting the legitimacy of the past elections under question, in order not to face a legal dead-end or turning up in an awkward state,” Ter-Petrossian announced.
Today Ter-Petrossian has also received the refusal of the city administration, in response to his application to get permission for organizing a rally at the Freedom Square on March 21. He said they would continue applying to get permissions for the following days, too, although he did not exclude that, up to April 9, the authorities would try not to permit conducting any mass event.“For 5 months, there have been no infringements on our behalf; no incidents have been registered during numerous rallies and gatherings. Did anything happen to change the people in one day? The following thing happened – the authorities applied truncheons against the people, and an unmanageable situation was created. However, I am sure that the situation was being wonderfully managed by the authorities,” Levon Ter-Petrossian said.
He covered the future actions, saying that “we have never gone for non-political tension to date, and are not going to. They are going to fight by all the legal means – civilized, clear, and uncompromising. According to the first president, “70 percent of AAM board, all the leaders of the territorial headquarters, most members of the central headquarters are arrested.” But the mass arrests and the happened events make the authorities more anxious, according to the first president, “A lot of blood has been shed. The authorities feel responsibility for that. OSCE/ODIHR has presented a very strict assessment. There has never been a stricter report after 1995. These are phenomena that cannot be ignored.”Ter-Petrossian once more emphasized that today we have another society – society that “is different from what we had 5 months ago.” It will be difficult to manage this society in conditions of such a lack of legitimacy of the authorities.According to Ter-Petrossian, the authorities talk about the necessity of a dialogue but “they do everything to disrupt that possibility, with all their steps contributing to a tenser situation.” Ter-Petrossian repeated his approach that he had presented at the Constitutional Court –taking the suggestions of the European Union statement as a basis and turning them into a plan of actions. The European Union had offered to stop the state of emergency, release the arrested people, eliminate the restrictions of the media activities and implement an independent investigation of the incidents on March 1. According to Ter-Petrossian, the acceptance of these offers can become a full-fledged basis for negotiations and a dialogue.
Police violence in Armenia on March 1st, The Bloody Sunday, as a result of which the tent camp of sleeping protesters in Yerevan’s Liberty square was dispersed, their leader Levon Ter-Petrossian taken under house arrest, stirred emotions, resulted in large scale riots after a spontaneous gathering of opposition and anti-government demonstrators, triggering severe police and military action, deaths of civilians and institution of a state of emergency. Over a hundred people were wounded, among them more then 80 civilians. According to official data from Prosecutor’s Office 8 people died, names are known:
Rest in Peace My Dear Armenian Brothers!
There are no doubts, that President Robert Kocharyan, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian and his supporters are directly responsible for these deaths, and should publicly apologise for their uncompromising stance and stupidity.
It is also important, that the activities of the military and police are carefully investigated. The incompetent commanders of police and military forces, who, as a result of their inability to control the situation, have become the direct cause of civilian and police deaths, should be duly punished. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening at this point. The authorities are playing the one sided blame game, taking advantage of total information blockade in the country, and directing their accusations solely against the opposition activists and media.
God forgive them, for blinded and corrupted they are with power!!!
People are peacefully going home gathered in small groups. An eyewitness said, that Levon Ter-Petrossian had called from his house, where he was sitting under house arrest, and told the protesters to go away, warning, that tanks and military are coming and more serious accidents will happen if people do not obey. Ter-Petrossian has also said, that they will mobilize again in 15 days, after the state of emergency declared today by President Kocharian is lifted, and will continue “demanding justice”.
“Բան չհասկացանք էս ամենից վերջը”(“So we didn’t understand anything in the end”), said a grim looking man in late 40’s.
Minibuses and cars used as barricades were already gone, the trolleybusses and a couple of busses, as well as the overturned and burned police cars could still be seen on both sides of Grigor Lusavorich street, which was the main site of rioting drama today. The riots have stopped for good it seems, leaving Yerevan in a mess… cars burned, shops robbed and we still don’t know how many people have died or are badly injured.
Despite warnings from the police, the president, arrests of demonstrators and some opposition party leaders, protest rallies in the Liberty square continue…
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Our movement is a bourgeois-democratic revolution aimed to free the society from the claws of feudalism, Armenia’s first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan told a rally on February 27.
The purpose of the movement is to establish the rule of law and free economy, according to him.
“The oligarchs, who are forced to give bribes and pay to associated “family”, will fell first victims to the current regime,” he added.
“All population strata understand the necessity of shift of power. Overwhelming majority of law enforcers and military took the opposition’s side,” he said, IA Regnum reports.
Coming to work today I saw police forcing the cars parked around the Opera house to leave the area. I was told, that there are police busses standing in front of all universities. A police action to discharge the rallie was expected today, but so far the rally continues. At 16:00 when I went over, there were around 30,000 people. During my section visit – already after 20:00, there were still around 4000 people. (Check out my YouTube Channel for the latest video)
Shap words of warning came from President Robert Kocharyan in yesterdays interview to the Public TV of Armenia – that the authorities cannot tolerate much longer the endless opposition protests in front of the Opera house. Kocharyan deliberately called the Freedom square with its old name – Theatre square, as if trying to neglect the “freedom” aspect of it. However, today, despite all warnings, the Freedom square was full of people – at least 35,000 demonstrators looked elevated, and chanted “Levon, Levon!”.
Having regained his voice, Nikol Pashinyan, one of the most energetic opposition activists, told everybody, that there is a “Psychological warfare” going on in Armenia, and urged their supporters to keep coming to the Freedom square until they win.
Ter-Petrossian also spoke, saying that he has been spending already two nights at the Freedom square with the protesters, and ensured, that he keeps working to ensure victory.
As if to counter Kocharyan’s warning, the crowd set out to march again – the march was unsanctioned, as all of the marches organized over the past 6-7 days. A sizable crowd of people was urged to remain in the Freedom square, so as to prevent the police forces from occupying it. Police crackdown is expected any moment now.
For Kocharyan’s interview check out Uzogh’s blog.
|Freedom Square, Yerevan, Armenia 15:05||Republic Square, Yerevan, Armenia, 15:20|
All through the day yesterday the State propaganda machine was showing the rare crowd of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian’s supporters in front of the Opera house, describing them as alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless beggars, armed criminals. A scare campaign was also in progress – showing arrests of more Ter-Petrossian’s supporters: Petros Makeyan, Suren Surenyants, Khachatur Suqiasyan’s (Grzo) bodyguards. Meanwhile, demonstrations in various regions, staged in support of government candidate, prime minister Serzh Sargsyan were displayed. H1 Public TV of Armenia was openly inviting everyone to the Republic Square in Yerevan today, to attend the big rally in support of the “newly elected president” Serzh Sargsyan. One thing they miscalculated, however, is the fact, that the authorities have been running out of their administrative levers by now, and that people don’t trust the Public TV reports anymore. Every word public TV said yesterday – contributed to Ter-Petrossian’s authority. People don’t like being treated like sheep.
Today there were two rallies in Yerevan – the endless rally started by the opposition since February 20th in the highly symbolic Freedom Square, in front of the Opera house, and the rally in support of government candidate Serzh Sargsyan, who claims victory at the elections. While people have been warned against attending the rally at the Freedom Square, which the authorities say is unsanctioned, the rally at the Republic square was organized using the whole administrative capacity of the authorities: people were herded and brought in from the regions, state institutions, schools, universities, ministeries. Quite expectedly, people assembled at the Serzh Sargsyan rally at the Republic square, after days of information blockade by the state propaganda machine and in many cases forced to attend the Serzh Sargsyan rally, at some point during the rally, when music pop-star Sirusho was singing, started walking towards the Freedom square rally, where Ter-Petrossian supporters were protesting. As a result – the number of Ter-Petrossian rally participants swelled extraordinarily. In fact, I’ve never seen such a large crowd in my life.
People have awakened, and Serzh Sargsyan, even if he manages to tackle this somehow, will never be a president with real power, authority and legitimacy. Even if Ter-Petrossian doesn’t become president (and I still see his chances as rather vague), he has already won.
This evening president Kocharyan is scheduled to speak on Armenian TV. I expect him to declare a state of emergency, call in the army, perhaps institute curfew and start mass arrests.
|Northern Ave. Yerevan, Armenia||Freedom Square, Yerevan, Armenia|