The “crucial phase”, as conceived by the opposition activists, involves rallies in central squares in Yerevan, obstruction of traffic on the major roads and marches in various districts of the capital.
The main force in the protests are the Dashnaks, as well as supporters of former presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan. Their declared aim is to overthrow Prime Minister Pashinyan “in order to save Armenia and Karabakh”. Their immediate most important goal is to disrupt the peace talks with Azerbaijan, and the ultimate goal is the seizure of power.
The overall picture of the “crucial phase” of the protest movement, which began with marches from the regions to the capital and was accompanied by various forms of defiance of the authorities, shows that the revanchists have mobilized all their forces and taken tens of thousands of people to the streets. However, confident in its strength, Pashinyan’s government does not appear concerned, at least not outwardly. Meanwhile, the main premise of the unfolding events was serious disagreements within the government itself.
It should be said that the law enforcement stands firmly behind the lawful authorities, doing its best to suppress the riots initiated by the protesters. There have been no cases of the police siding with the opposition. Moreover, the actions of the police are getting increasingly extensive and harsh. Be as it may, the number of detained protesters is growing by the hour.
But the opposition has also expanded its civil disobedience actions. Yesterday and today, May 3 and 4, they blocked Yerevan’s main streets and bridges with heavy duty vehicles and concrete mixers. To counterbalance them, a great number of police special forces were pulled to the Kievyan and other bridges and junctions in an attempt to unblock the traffic.
In the meantime, if at first the protesters chanted “Armenia without Nikol”, a little later they began to shout “Armenia without Turks”.
Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a representative of Dashnaktsutyun, said in France Square that the demand for Pashinyan’s resignation would be handed to the prime minister on May 4.
“We have to gather at 3 p.m. in this square. Tomorrow (May 4—Ed.) there is a government hour in the National Assembly, and Nikol will be there at 4:00 p.m. We must be here at 3:30 p.m. to demonstrate the public demand for his resignation. Your presence is essential,” Saghatelyan urged those gathered in the square yesterday.
At the same time, in order not to frighten the protesters with a new war, which many believe could start after Pashinyan is ousted, Saghatelyan said that the newly formed government would not renounce trilateral statements on Karabakh, including the November 10, 2020 statement and subsequent documents signed with Azerbaijan.
“We will not provoke a war. We will not stop negotiations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, we will not declare war. But we will go to these negotiations not to ask what the opposing party needs, but to really defend the interests of our country. You might say that Nikol is saying the same thing. But in fact, he is not,” the opposition leader argued.
Another leader of the protests, the former head of Armenia’s special services, Artur Vanetsyan, called for new forms of civil disobedience, including strikes. He insisted that students should leave their classrooms and join the rallies.
Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan, former leaders of the country, are invariably present among those gathered in France Square. But they do not want to speak before the people; they prefer to stay behind the scene. Or perhaps they are not sure that their activity will increase the number of protesters: a substantial part of the Armenian population has not forgotten the failures of their policies, both foreign and domestic.
Meanwhile, Saghatelyan is making generous appeals and promises, saying that without Pashinyan hostilities will not resume at all, saying that assumptions that Azerbaijan will get angry and take drastic action if there is a change of power in Armenia are unfounded. On the contrary, he says, there is no avoiding war if Pashinyan remains in power. “If there is going to be a war, it will be with Nikol. I can say with certainty that if Nikol leaves, the situation will be different,” Saghatelyan says.
The leader of the Dashnaks also tried to answer the question of what awaits the country if the current government is overthrown. “After Nikol’s removal, a government of national harmony will be formed. This government will be temporary, and it will not be a government of one party or one person. It will not be a government of Dashnaktsutyun, Kocharyan’s Republican Party, or anyone else’s government. It will be a national government consisting of the best forces of the people,” Saghatelyan said, without specifying what the “best forces of the people” intended to do.
The only things evident behind all the boisterous rhetoric of the organizers of the new Armenian sedition “to save Armenia and Karabakh” are power and revenge. They hate Pashinyan’s decision to “lower the bar” in the Karabakh issue and recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan—one might say this decision is a thorn in their side. They still cherish the dream of a “free Artsakh” in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. And this, no matter what various Armenian exes say, means a new status quo for Armenia at best, and a new war at worst.
David Sanasaryan, the closest associate of Pashinyan, the leader of the protest movement in Armenia in 2018, who now heads the Sovereign Armenia party, has an opinion of his own regarding the current protests, and it seems to be not far from the truth.
“I can only assume that there is a policy aimed at Armenia joining the Union State or some other degree of integration with the Russian Federation. One way or another, Russia is present in all these games, and it is certainly playing to win. Democratic processes are underway in Armenia and the elections are not held with the violations they had in the recent past. And Armenia’s deep democratization cannot, for obvious reasons, suit Moscow’s interests,” Sanasaryan says.
At the same time, he disagrees with Pashinyan on many issues and even called the prime minister’s latest statements on Karabakh “wrong”; however he has no doubt that the purpose of what is happening now in Yerevan is precisely to maintain the allegiance to Moscow.
At the same time, Sanasaryan points out that most of those dissatisfied with Pashinyan chose to stay at home because they had seen the street activity of the “exes” whom they do not trust. Moreover, in the last parliamentary elections, many voted for Pashinyan only to eliminate the possibility of Kocharyan’s and Sargsyan’s reincarnation.
“Pashinyan is making unacceptable statements on Karabakh and Armenia now. And yet people are still unwilling to go out into the streets, knowing full well that what lies behind the rally leaders’ slogans about Karabakh, Turks and enemies is actually a power struggle,” Sanasaryan sums up.
Translated from Haqqin.Az