2018 Armenian revolution
|2018 Armenian Revolution|
Protesters on 22 April 2018
|Date||31 March 2018 – 8 May 2018|
(1 month, 1 week and 1 day)
Armenia: Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor, Abovyan, Sevan, Gavar, Artashat, Armavir, Ashtarak, Vagharshapat, Kapan, Stepanavan, Spitak, Dilijan
Armenian diaspora: Glendale, California, Moscow, Marseille, Toronto, Montreal, Sochi,Vancouver, Athens, London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Sao Paulo 
|Caused by||Election of Serzh Sargsyan to the post of Prime Minister|
|Methods||Demonstrations, sit-ins, student protest, civil disobedience, online activism, boycotts of business, general strike|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2018 Armenian revolution (most commonly known in Armenia as #MerzhirSerzhin (Armenian: ՄերժիրՍերժին), meaning "#RejectSerzh") were a series of anti-government protests in Armenia from April to May 2018 staged by various political and civil groups led by member of 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 the Armenia and later against the Republican Party-controlled government in general. Pashinyan declared it a Velvet Revolution (Թավշյա հեղափոխություն).
On 23 April, Sargsyan conceded, saying "I was wrong, while Nikol Pashinyan was right" and resigned. 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 By the evening of 25 April, the Republican Party’s coalition partner ARF-Dashnaktsutyun had withdrawn from the coalition.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 Pashiniyan's candidacy. A vote was scheduled in the National Assembly for 1 May; for Pashiniyan 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.
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 March 31, Nikol Pashinyan began his Im Kayl (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 April 13 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 have grown, the new prime minister has called repeatedly for talks with the leader of the protest movement, Nikol Pashinyan, though Pashinyan has said he is 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". 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). He also warned that Pashinyan had not "learned the lessons of March 1", a reference to the 10 protestors killed by police during protests of his election 10 years earlier, amounting to an open threat of violence.
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 arrested, and, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, tens of thousands gathered in Republic Square to continue to demand the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan. The police issued a statement saying that Pashinyan, Mikaelyan and Mirzoyan had been detained for 72 hours; criminal charges may only be brought against them if the Republican-controlled National Assembly strips 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 the remembrance day of the Armenian Genocide. The protesters gathered in masses and walked to Tsitsernakaberd, the 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 has no right to hold power in Armenia, and that the "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 is 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 seem to have declared their support for Pashinyan's movement, with the latter pulling out of the ruling coalition. Pashiniyan has vowed to continue the protests until he is appointed prime minister.
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 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 May 8 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 of formal means of counteraction to the ruling coalition over civil disobedience actions.
Many cultural figures have 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 FM 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 April 22 and additional protests being held on other days, including May 8.
- 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
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Samvel Aleksanyan, a local oligarch close to Serzh Sargsyan, is personally fighting demonstrators in Malatia district. In a video published on Facebook, Aleksanyan is seen kicking a protester who is then forcibly put into a car.
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