Developments in Armenia: Opposition Protests Continue

Armenian opposition protest started in the Liberty square on February 20, in response to large-scale electoral fraud, vote buying and violence, ended today, 10 days after, with police forces storming the square around 7 o’clock in the morning and forcing the tent-camp of the protesters out.
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.
Yesterday President Kocharyan spoke again, warning of police action. 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. Other people were coming to the area, some were throwing rocks at the police from the side of the French embassy and from the rear – from the Yerevan Municipality side. Approaching proved a difficult task, I took some video shots, and turned back.
Anyway – I still see this as a struggle of two power hungry elites, and some 30-40,000 people, manipulated by Ter-Petrossian, blinded by hatred and lies from the side of the opposition, caught in between. Ter-Petrossian knew the police would act, but kept lying to people, claiming support of police officials. The government had to use force to restore order – and I think it is exactly as it should be.
Anyways – an hour later I left for Gyumri – my parents kept calling, urging to come over with my wife. So I did. Was it an act of a coward? Maybe – but hell, this is not my fight! Ter-Petrossian wants power? Let him go get it now, although I’m sure, that his becoming president won’t bring anything good to the country. Unfortunately, with all these people finally pissed off by police violence, Ter-Petrossian still has a very real chance! According to the latest reports people have gathered in front of the Sundukian theatre, near the French embassy led by Stepan Demirchyan, Nikol Pashinyan, Aram Sargsyan and Khachatur Suqiasyan, and are waiting for Ter-Petrossian to come and speak to them. There’s a long day ahead…

Armenian Opposition Protest Rally Dispersed

The phone call from a Ter-Petrossian supporter woke me up today at 7.44. “They came, crushed and dispersed the rally she said. Warn the journalists”. So I did. At the moment the Echannel journalist is still at the Liberty square. I’ll be going down too. Will update this post as soon as there’s more news.

Artur Baghdasaryan Decided to Cooperate With Serzh Sargsyan

“Divide et impera” (Latin: divide and conquer) is an ancient strategy. So is bribe and conquer…

Echannel reports, that Arthur Baghdasaryan, the chairman of Country of Law (Orinats Yerkir), and Serzh Sargsyan, the prime minister, have signed an agreement for collaboration. The rumour is, that Arthur Baghdasaryan will be appointed in the position of Security Council secretary of Armenia, as soon as Serzh Sargsyan takes up the obligations of the president of Armenia.

Meanwhile, the opposition protests in front of the Opera house, in the Liberty square, continue. I went there this morning – at around 10:30, and there were mostly the people who spent the night in the tents. The rest of the crowd were just starting to gather. One thing I noticed, is the number of people reading newspapers and the information stand, put up in the corner of the road leading to the Northern Avenue. There you could find copies of “Haykakan Zhamanak” pro-opposition newspaper, printouts of stories from various information websites. At the first glance it appeared, that by posting information from these, often biased sources, the opposition are trying to cheer up their supporters, as well try to counterbalance the highly negative coverage, that government censored television (which means – nearly all TV channels) in Armenia are broadcasting.

PS: Also check out my YouTube Channel for latest videos. 

Armenian Opposition Protests Continue: Day 8

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.

Source: PanARMENIAN.Net

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)

Government vs Opposition: Psychological Warfare

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.

Lord of The Ring? The Two Towers?

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

Post-Election Armenia: Time To Pick Sides?

There is a lot of confusion in Armenia today. Information and misinformation flows follow each other – it is becoming harder to distinguish truth from lies. Protests continue in Yerevan’s Freedom Square, where opposition candidate, First President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian’s supporters demand recognition of their candidate’s victory, although there was no objective indication throughout the electoral process, that Ter-Petrossian’s claims are true.
On the other hand, demonstrations are staged in the regions of Armenia – students, schoolchildren, employees of state subsidized organizations, big and small government officials are forced to attend them to express their “support” of the government candidate, Prime-minister Serzh Sargsyan, who was declared to be the winner of the presidential race by the Central Electoral Commission in the absence of opposition representatives. Interestingly, the authorities don’t seem to feel confident enough to stage a large rally in Yerevan, where the anti-Sargsyan sentiment is especially strong. Generally, it feels like only morons could support Serzh Sargsyan – in many circles it is considered disgraceful to openly voice support of the pro-government candidate. Although a range of polls and surveys before the elections, including a Populus exit-poll, indicated Serzh Sargsyan’s victory, everybody I’ve spoken to so far, including Sargsyan’s supporters, have agreed, that without widespread vote bribes, ballot stuffing and election fraud, there would be no way for Serzh Sargsyan to ensure 53% of the vote that he received. Continue reading “Post-Election Armenia: Time To Pick Sides?”

Random Feelings After a Sleepless Night With Protesters

I really really want to sleep… don’t feel like working – with so many exciting things going on… I spent the night going back and forth from Opera house to a nearby cafe, then to home and back, then to my office and back…
…and all that time I couldn’t help feeling guilty and responsible for everything that’s happening now. We all are responsible, aren’t we? But some are brave enough to stand up and fight, some, like me – look for excuses in not liking Levon or supporting Vahan – and some openly admit they are being raped by Serzh, and they even like it. Continue reading “Random Feelings After a Sleepless Night With Protesters”

Armenian Opposition Protest the Election Results

Opposition Protest in front of Government Building © Photo by Artur Papyan, Yerevan, 2008

Armenian opposition gathered more then 50 thousand supporters for a rally protesting the election results in front of Matenadaran today, closing the Mashtots avenue from Matenadaran till Nairi Cinema theater. Nikol Pashinyan, one of the most vocal opposition leaders, editor in-cheif of the Haykakan Zhamanak daily announced, that the opposition denounces the elections, and calls for a new round of elections. Presidential candidate, Former President Levon Ter-Petrossian in his speech characterized the elections as “shameful”. He further called Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s victory the “victory of the criminal world, ….victory of Mher from Tokhmakh, Mouk from Mkhchyan, Nemets Rubo, Dodi Gago, Lfik Samo…” , naming the oligarchs supporting the Prime Minister, who according to preliminary data, has won the elections by more then 52 %.

Continue reading “Armenian Opposition Protest the Election Results”

International Media Neglecting Armenian Election?

With only six hours to go till the polling stations close in Armenia, the international media seem to be largely uninterested in the developments here, with very basic coverage of the elections only available from major international news agencies, as well as the BBC and Euronews.
The elections are largely described as a transfer of power from outgoing leader Robert Kocharyan to his ally and prime minister Serzh Sarksyan. All international media reports point to economic growth, as the main factor in favor of Serzh Sargsyan – described as the clear frontrunner, although some point to doubts about the validity of the polls indicating Prime Minister’s high rating.
The BBC describes the Armenian elections as “fiercely-contested”, resulting from the dramatic comeback of Armenia’s former President Levon Ter-Petrosian as an opposition candidate.
Bloomberg is mostly concentrating on the possibility of street protests by the opposition over raising concerns that the vote may be rigged.  The information service points to the fact, that Armenia is under pressure from U.S. and the European Union to strengthen its democracy at a time when it is receiving hundred of millions of dollars in aid, indicating, that there have already been charges against the authorities by the main opposition challenger Levon Ter-Petrossian of government attempts to control the vote and ensure Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s victory.
Reuters also notes, the opposition claims, that the campaign has been unfair, and predicts street protests, as in the case of previous elections in Armenia which “have been followed by mass opposition protests alleging ballot fraud. However, the news service notes the polls, which “give Sarksyan a lead over the rest of the field, led by former former speaker of parliament Artur Baghdasaryan and Levon Ter-Petrosyan, a former president who was forced to resign in 1998 but is now seeking a comeback, and quotes Sarksyan saying:”
If there is a second round I would prefer to fight against Levon Ter-Petrosyan”.
Euronews is highlighting the fact, that “failure of the opposition to unite around a single candidate has boosted Sarksyan’s chances”, and predicting, that upon election “Sarksyan will have to deal with the so-called “frozen” conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh”.
The “Nagorno-Karabakh” perspective is also covered by Agence France-Presse, which also indicates, that Serzh Sarkisian, seen as the fruntrunner, is likely to  follow in Kocharian’s footsteps if elected — pursuing close ties with Moscow and maintaining a hawkish stance in relations with neighbouring Azerbaijan and Turkey.

in Armenian

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