2018 Armenian revolution
|2018 Armenian Velvet Revolution|
|Date||31 March 2018 – 8 May 2018|
(1 month, 1 week and 1 day)
|Methods||Demonstrations, sit-ins, student protest, civil disobedience, online activism, boycotts of business, general strike|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|Casualties and losses|
The 2018 Armenian Revolution (most commonly known in Armenia as #MerzhirSerzhin (Armenian: ՄերժիրՍերժին), meaning "#RejectSerzh") was a series of anti-government protests in Armenia from April to May 2018 staged by various political and civil groups led by a member of the Armenian parliament — Nikol Pashinyan (head of the Civil Contract party). Protests and marches took place initially in response to Serzh Sargsyan's third consecutive term as the most powerful figure in the government of Armenia and later against the Republican Party-controlled government in general. Pashinyan declared it a Velvet Revolution (Թավշյա հեղափոխություն).
On 22 April, Pashinyan was arrested and held in solitary confinement overnight, then released on 23 April, the same day that Sargsyan resigned, saying "I was wrong, while Nikol Pashinyan was right". The event is referred to by some as a peaceful revolution akin to revolutions in other post-Soviet states. By the evening of 25 April, the Republican Party’s coalition partner ARF-Dashnaktsutyun had withdrawn from the coalition.
By 28 April, all of the opposition parties in Armenia's parliament had announced they would support Pashinyan's candidacy. A vote was scheduled in the National Assembly for 1 May; for Pashinyan to be elected Prime Minister, which required 53 votes, he would have had to win the votes of at least six members of the Republican Party. Pashinyan was the only candidate who was put forward for the vote. However, the Republican Party unanimously voted against Pashinyan – 102 MPs were present, out of which 56 voted against his candidacy and 45 voted for it. One week later, on 8 May, the second vote took place. Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister with 59 votes.
In 2012–2017 reported levels of trust in national government (25%) and confidence in judicial system (29%) in Armenia were below of all its neighbouring countries.
Nomination of Sargsyan for the post of Prime Minister
Demonstrations and protests began in March 2018, when members of the Republican Party did not exclude the option of nominating Serzh Sargsyan for the prime minister's post. This meant a continuation of Sargsyan's rule (as either Prime Minister or President) since March 2007. He had amended the constitution in 2015 to remove term limits which would have prevented him doing this.
Protesters had vowed to block the party's headquarters on 14 April, where leaders were going to gather to formally nominate Serzh Sargsyan for prime minister. The Republican Party held its meeting outside of capital Yerevan and unanimously voted to formally nominate Serzh Sargsyan for the office of prime minister. The coalition partner Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutyun (ARF-D) supported the ruling Republican Party’s decision, as did most of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party caucus.
On 31 March, Nikol Pashinyan began his Im Qayl (my step) protest walk, starting in the city of Gyumri, and walking through cities and towns such as Vanadzor, Dilijan, Hrazdan, and Abovyan, before finally reaching Yerevan on 13 April and holding a small rally.
About 100 protesters stayed overnight on France Square after the first day of protests, and an equal number did the same on Saturday night, some sleeping in tents, others gathered around fires. As of Sunday morning, the Armenian police had made no effort to disrupt the demonstrations.
On Monday 16 April, the "Take a Step, Reject Serzh" campaign began actions of civil disobedience. On 17 April, the day that the prime minister's election was scheduled, the protesters intended to block entrances to the building of the National Assembly in order to prevent the vote from taking place. Lines of riot police stopped them from advancing further towards the National Assembly building.
After the election of the former president Serzh Sargsyan as the new prime minister, the protests continued to grow, despite hundreds of people being detained by police. The prime minister in response asked the government to take back the presidential mansion which it had given him a few weeks earlier. The crowds reached 50,000 on the night of 21 April, with countless sporadic street closures in the capital, which also began to spread across the country.
As the crowds grew, the new prime minister called repeatedly for talks with the leader of the protest movement, Nikol Pashinyan, but Pashinyan said he was only willing to discuss the terms of the Prime Minister's resignation. After Pashinyan's rally was visited by the Armenian President on the evening of 21 April for a brief chat with Pashinyan, Pashinyan agreed to meet the prime minister at 10 am on 22 April, saying he believed the topic would be Serzh Sargsyan's resignation.
The meeting, which lasted for a mere three minutes, failed to achieve anything, with Sargsyan walking out of it and accusing the opposition of "blackmail" when Pashinyan stated he had only agreed to discuss terms of the Prime Minister's resignation and nothing else. During the meeting, Sargsyan asked Pashinyan not to speak on behalf of the people and not to issue ultimatums to the government, given the low level of support for his political alliance (less than 10 percent of the vote in the past parliamentary elections). He also warned that Pashinyan had not "learned the lessons of March 1", a reference to the protestors killed by police while contesting the validity of the election results of Sargsyan's election 10 years earlier, amounting to an open threat of violence against the protesters gathering daily in around the nation.
Immediately after the meeting, Pashinyan led a group of supporters from the site of the meeting by Republic Square on a long march down Tigran Mets and Artsakh streets to the Erebuni district, where they were met by riot police and stun grenades as Pashinyan was detained followed by mass detentions of protestors, including opposition lawmakers Sasun Mikayelyan and Ararat Mirzoyan. Protests continue throughout the city. By the evening 232 protestors had been detained or arrested, and, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, tens of thousands gathered in Republic Square to continue to demand the resignation of PM Serzh Sargsyan. The police issued a statement saying that Pashinyan, Mikaelyan and Mirzoyan had been detained for 72 hours; however criminal charges could only be brought against them if the Republican-controlled National Assembly stripped them of their parliamentary immunity.
Protests resumed on 23 April, with media outlets reporting that former and current members of the Armenian armed forces, including participants of the 2016 April War, have joined in the rallies for the first time. This information was later confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.
Pashinyan was released at 3pm, and went directly to Republic Square where he spoke briefly, saying he would return at 6:30pm. By 4:30pm, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan had posted a message on the official website of the prime minister announcing his resignation. Former Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan succeeded Sargsyan as acting Prime Minister.
24 April is marked as the national day of remembrance of the Armenian genocide. The protesters gathered in masses and walked to Tsitsernakaberd, Armenia's national Genocide Memorial. No protest was held on that day.
Pashinyan called for renewed protests on 25 April after talks with the Republican Party were cancelled due to Karapetyan’s refusal to accept preconditions laid down by Pashinyan. Earlier Pashinyan stated that the Republican Party had no right to hold power in Armenia, and that a "people's candidate" should be appointed prime minister prior to holding snap elections. He added that the protest movement should nominate this transitional prime minister, a position that was rejected by the current government as it would violate the law. Protesters took to the streets to block the road to Yerevan’s international airport and the road leading to the border with Georgia. Meanwhile, the Prosperous Armenia Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation both declared their support for Pashinyan's movement, with the latter pulling out of the ruling coalition. Pashinyan vowed to continue the protests until he was appointed prime minister.
Tens of thousands continued to protest on 26 April, though Pashinyan asked protestors to stop blocking streets. The ruling HHK party announced it was ready to meet with Pashinyan without any preconditions, while Pashinyan offered to negotiate with them while insisting he must become Prime Minister.
Pashinyan called on his supporters to suspend their rallies in Yerevan for 2 days while he held rallies in Gyumri on 27 April and Vanadzor on 28 April. In the morning he met with Armenia's largely ceremonial President, leaders of the governing party's former coalition partner the ARF, as well as Parliament's second largest faction BHK. In an interview on the same day, the president hailed the "New Armenia" that has come about due to the protests, and the chance for "a real democratic state". Meanwhile the ruling HHK party announced that they do not see any regime change occurring in Armenia.
On 28 April, Pashinyan held rallies in Vanadzor and Ijevan, while the second and third largest parties in Parliament – BHK and ARF – announced they would support his candidacy for PM, and the ruling HHK party announced they would not block Pashinyan's candidacy, and that they would not put forward their own candidate.
Parliament held elections for a new Prime Minister, with the opposition leader Pashinyan the only nominee, as over 100,000 people watched the 9 hour session being broadcast live at Republic Square. However the majority party blocked his nomination by voting against him with one exception. After the election, prominent Armenian singers such as Iveta Mukuchyan and Sona Shahgeldyan performed for the crowd and made inspiring speeches. Pashinyan walked to Republic Square and told the crowd to go on strike the next day, and block all transportation from 8:15 in the morning until 5 in the evening, then gather for another rally at 7pm in Republic Square.
The nation ground to a halt as countless streets and highways were peacefully blocked throughout the nation, and many workers and businesses went on strike. The main airport access road was cut off, with some workers striking, and even land crossings were blocked. 150,000 people gathered in another evening rally in Republic Square to listen to Pashinyan speak, and were told that he had been informed that due to the strike, the ruling party had decided to support his candidacy in the next round of voting on 8 May. Protests were suspended in the meantime.
On 8 May Parliament again had a vote on a new Prime Minister, and again Nikol Pashinyan was the only candidate. This time the majority Republican party gave Pashinyan enough votes to win with a 59–42 margin. All the votes against Pashinyan still came from the Republican party.
On 4 April Edmon Marukyan, leader of the Bright Armenia party, which cooperates with the Civil Contract party lead by Nikol Pashinyan in the Way Out Alliance published an article in Aravot newspaper, in which he stated his preference for formal means of counteracting the ruling coalition rather than civil disobedience actions.
Many cultural figures had already declared solidarity with the opposition movement. In particular, well-known musician Serj Tankian of System of a Down addressed the activists declaring his solidarity and support, stressing the impermissibility of one-party rule in Armenia. Some organizations of the diaspora, in particular the Congress of Armenians of Europe, also expressed support for the opposition.
- European Union: On 24 April the head of the EU Delegation to Armenia hailed the success in the civic disobedience campaign in the country, promising a more intensive process towards the ratification of Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.
- Georgia: Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, released a video on 23 April congratulating the Armenian people on Sargsyan's resignation. He stated: "Today you have every right to be proud of yourself, to be proud of the fact that you are Armenians, the proud people who could prove to the whole world that they have dignity, that they want to live in normal human conditions, free from corruption. Armenia has a great future; today I was convinced of it again. I support you, we will always be with you. Well done!" He also claimed that the movement is a "rebellion against Russia".
- Russia: Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova praised the peaceful transition, adding that "Armenia, Russia is always with you!" A statement on the Foreign Ministry official web page reads: "We hope that the situation will develop exclusively in the legal and constitutional field, and all political forces will show responsibility and readiness for a constructive dialogue. We are convinced that the prompt return of life in the country to normal and the restoration of public accord meet the fundamental interests of the fraternal Armenia."
- United States: On 23 April US Ambassador Richard Mills praised the Armenian police and anti-government protesters led by Nikol Pashinyan for avoiding bloodshed during their standoff that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. A statement by the US State Department expressed hope that his successor will be chosen in a transparent and constitutional manner. The statement also called on Armenia’s leading political groups to “avoid an escalation of the situation and any violent actions.” Protests were held by Armenians in various communities of the United States, with 5,000 protesters gathering in solidarity with those protesting in Armenia on 22 April and additional protests being held on other days, including 8 May.
During the 2020 Belarusian protests, the Armenian revolution was brought up as a model for Belarus for its lack of anti-Russian or pro-Western geopolitical orientation by commentators such as Carl Bildt, Anders Åslund, Ian Bremmer, Yaroslav Trofimov, Ben Judah, and others. Belarusian journalist Franak Viačorka criticized this notion. Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan also rejected the comparisons. "Armenia followed its own path and it’s not quite correct to draw parallels based on that. True, there might be some common parameters, but on the whole these are different situations," he said.
- 2008 Armenian presidential election protests, especially clashes that occurred 1 March
- 2011 Armenian protests, triggered over Karen Karapetyan's decision to ban street vendors in Yerevan
- Mashtots Park Movement, 2012 protests to save green space in Yerevan
- 2013 Armenian protests, over Serzh Sargsyan's re-election
- 2013 Armenian protests over public transportation fare hikes
- Electric Yerevan, 2015 protests over electricity rate hikes
- 2016 Yerevan hostage crisis demonstrations
- Colour revolution
- List of protests in the 21st century
- I Am Not Alone, a 2019 documentary film about the revolution
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- Åslund, Anders (16 August 2020). "Why Vladimir Putin is unlikely to invade Belarus". atlanticcouncil.org. Atlantic Council. Archived from the original on 16 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
Rather than looking to Russia’s policy toward Ukraine in 2014, I think we should turn to its policy on Armenia since 2018. This was the most recent post-Soviet color revolution. Initially, Putin’s position seemed to be hesitant, but now he appears to be quite happy with Armenia’s very popular democratic Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Armenia has stayed in the Eurasian Economic Union and in Moscow’s Collective Security Treaty Organization along with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In addition, large Russian state companies completely dominate the Armenian economy.
- Bremmer, Ian (18 August 2020). "Russia didn't intervene when the Armenians threw out their leader two years ago. [...] Same factors in Belarus today". Twitter. Archived from the original on 20 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- Trofimov, Yaroslav (14 August 2020). "It is also entirely possible that there is a solution in Belarus that satisfies Russia and the EU (including France.) Cf. Armenia 2018". Twitter. Archived from the original on 20 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- Haddad, Benjamin; Judah, Ben (7 August 2020). "Europe Must Stand Up for Belarus". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
Toward Moscow, the grouping should be clear that it favors the same approach the West took toward the Armenia revolution in spring 2018: It supports democracy, but will not seek to expand either NATO or EU membership toward Belarus.
- Viačorka, Franak (19 August 2020). "What Honorable Carl Bildt is offering here— absolutely dangerous and preserving Russian domination over BY. This would lead to entire russification of elites, export of corruption from Russia and unification of political systems (with pocket opposition and Russian parties)". Twitter. Archived from the original on 20 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
What Honorable Carl Bildt is offering here— absolutely dangerous and preserving Russian domination over BY. This would lead to entire russification of elites, export of corruption from Russia and unification of political systems (with pocket opposition and Russian parties)
- "Yerevan Rejects Parallels Between Belarus Protests, Armenian Revolution". azatutyun.am. RFE/RL. 1 September 2020.