Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... EuroNews D Day for Armenia

May 1 2018
A decisive day for Armenia
By Catherine Hardy

It is a decisive day in Armenia.

The country's parliament is set to elect opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as prime minister. Pashinyan is the only candidate.

He has led weeks of anti-government protests, forcing former Prime Minister and two-times president Serzh Sargsyan to resign.

"I think we won because nowhere in the world after a revolution, after this kind of peaceful protest, have people got what they wanted, and we have got what we wanted," said one protester on the streets.

The governing Republican Party has said it will not field a candidate in a bid to ease tensions. 

All 47 opposition members of parliament have pledged to vote for Mr Pashinyan, but he will need the backing of some Republican Party deputies.

BBC News
1 May 2018
Armenia crisis: Opposition leader Pashinyan faces PM vote

Nikol Pashinyan has said he will rid Armenia of corruption

Armenia's parliament is set to decide whether to back opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as prime minister as his supporters rally in the capital.

Mr Pashinyan, who has led weeks of anti-government protests that forced former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan to resign, is the only candidate.

He warned MPs of a "political tsunami" if they did not back him.
Armenia's ruling Republican Party said earlier it would not put up a candidate, in a bid to ease tensions.

But the protest leader said that there were moves aimed at halting his bid and he urged protesters to stay on the streets in the centre of Yerevan to prevent the Republican Party from "stealing the people's victory".
Why Armenia's 'Velvet Revolution' won without a shot fired
Armenia: History and politics
Mr Sargsyan, who had served 10 years as president, stepped down last month days after being sworn in as PM. He had been accused of trying to cling to power.

Supporters of Nikol Pashinyan gathered in Republic Square in their thousands as the debate took place on their future leader

All 47 opposition members of parliament have pledged to vote for Mr Pashinyan, but he will need votes from some Republican Party deputies to win the majority he needs in the 105-seat house. The Republican Party has dominated Armenian politics since 1999.

Mr Pashinyan, who has said he will rid Armenia of corruption, poverty and nepotism, called on his supporters to rally as parliament convened. 

In an overnight video address on Facebook he warned supporters that the former president was asking his party to obstruct his election.

The protest leader asked people to meet at Republic Square in the capital, Yerevan, to celebrate what he called "the public victory over hopelessness, emigration and uncertainty". An estimated 20,000 people gathered as the protest leader addressed parliament.

Mr Pashinyan, 42, has said he wants to call snap elections.

"Take this step," he urged MPs, "and you will serve the homeland and the people, helping them to exit this 10-year internal political crisis, helping them to finally eradicate hopelessness from Armenia."

What has happened in Armenia?
Demonstrators poured on to the streets of Yerevan last month in protest at Serzh Sargsyan's move from the presidency to the post of prime minister.
In 2015, Armenians voted in a referendum marred by irregularities to shift their country from a presidential to a parliamentary system, stripping the presidency of its powers and giving them to the prime minister. Mr Sargsyan had initially vowed he would not seek to stay in power.

The protests surged on 17 April when he was elected prime minister by parliament within days of leaving the presidency. 
Mr Pashinyan then met his rival for talks, which broke down within minutes when he called for the prime minister's resignation and Mr Sargsyan accusing protesters of blackmail. 

Mr Pashinyan and some 200 protesters were then arrested.
However, Mr Pashinyan was soon released and the prime minister resigned admitting he had "got it wrong".

France 24
May 1 2018
Armenian parliament to choose new prime minister after people's revolt
Armenian lawmakers vote to elect a new prime minister on Tuesday, with opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan vying to fill the role after leading a fortnight of protests that brought down Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan.
Pashinyan spent Monday negotiating with all political forces, including Sarksyan’s ruling Republican Party, which still holds a majority in parliament.
He may be the only candidate for the premier post, but Pashinyan is still six votes short of the 53 he needs from the 105-seat legislature.
Speaking to AFP in an interview Monday, Pashinyan said Armenians want to determine the future of their country and a ratcheting up of tensions was just a matter of time.
"People should have genuine possibilities to influence the political situation and political decisions," he said.
But he is well aware that without a mass resignation of ruling party members from parliament, he has very little chance of victory on May 1. Pashinyan has called for the resignations of ruling party MPs and for early parliamentary elections to be held "as soon as possible”.
People's revolt
After serving as president for 10 years and thus ineligible for a third term, Sarksyan took up the post of prime minister earlier this month following the 2015 transfer of governing powers from the presidency to the premier. The move sparked widespread protests, and Sarksyan, 63, was accused of wanting to remain Armenia’s leader for life while doing little during his decade in office to reduce social inequalities.
Sarksyan resigned on April 23 after almost two weeks of protests, with tens of thousands of protesters rallying daily in Yerevan. At the centre of the action was Pashinyan, 42, with his grizzled beard, dark cap and trademark camouflage T-shirt.
Pashinyan embodies hope for the many Armenians who are eager to exit the poverty that afflicts 30 percent of the population in this South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million.
'He won't betray the movement'
As the former editor of an opposition newspaper, Pashinyan has occupied a special place in the Armenian political landscape. "Pashinyan differs from the majority of opposition figures in that he is daring, he's not afraid, he's creative, he's got a quick wit and stamina," sociologist Gevorg Pogosyan told AFP.
When Pashinyan entered parliament last year with the Civil Contract party he founded, he promised to tackle both poverty and corruption.
"People go to him because they are confident he's not going to make secret deals with those in power, he won't betray the movement," Pogosyan said.
But Pashinyan’s name is also associated with tragedy. In 2008, he was one of the leaders of a protest against Sarksyan’s victory in the presidential election. The demonstrations turned into riots, leading to a pitched battle against the police in which 10 people were killed. Pashinyan went into hiding for several months before turning himself in to the police in 2009. Sentenced to seven years in prison in January 2010, he was released in 2011 under an amnesty.
‘He is the opposition’
"Pashinyan is the Armenian opposition today," said analyst Alexandre Iskandarian in comments to AFP. He now aims to be "the people's candidate" and calls for continuing anti-government protests until the ruling party "capitulates".
"It is clear, however, that he has so far been winning the bet in terms of mobilising," said Ara Toranian, co-chair of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations in France and director of the Armenian News Magazine. "In his ability to crystallise public anger and frustration, Nikol Pashinyan has been flawless. But the hardest part remains to transform rejection into hope and give it political weight."
The Kremlin has been watching recent developments in its former satellite with some apprehension. Russia still has two military bases in Armenia. In talks with acting leader Karapetyan on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin made it clear he did not want mob rule to prevail and would prefer the next prime minister to come from the ruling party, a preference that puts Moscow on a collision course with the Armenian protesters.
“It was emphasised that resolving the political crisis in Armenia must take place exclusively through legal means in the framework of the current constitution,” the Kremlin said.
Asked by reporters about Putin’s comment, Pashinyan called it “a misunderstanding”. “I think it’s a wrong interpretation, as Russia as well as other countries do not intervene in Armenia’s internal affairs,” he said.
"If I am not elected prime minister, then Armenia will not have a prime minister at all," Pashinyan said Thursday.
"Understand this – the issue is not about getting me elected prime minister. It's about getting rid of the corrupt system."
‘Don’t make criminally liable steps!’ – HHK faction leader to Pashinya
 Print| Views: 73

Vahram Baghdasaryan, head of the ruling party’s faction of the Armenian parliament, advised opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan not to make criminally liable steps. Baghdasaryan made the remark at the end of today’s meeting between the Republican Party faction and Nikol Pashinyan, who seeks to become Prime Minister in the May 1 voting.

Commenting on Nikol Pashinyan’s statement during a Q&A exchange with HHK lawmaker Margarit Yesayan when the opposition leader said he is ready for any action, right up to criminal liability for finishing the revolution, Baghdasaryan said: “You said you are ready even for criminal accountability. Don’t make steps which will be criminally liable!”

In response, Pashinyan clarified his statement: “Unfortunately, political activities often lead to criminal prosecution in Armenia”.

Not all ruling party MPs managed to address their questions to Pashinyan, and Baghdasaryan said they will have the chance tomorrow.
PM candidate Nikol Pashinyan says there have been people in leadership who behaved themselves like state figures

Nikol Pashinyan, Head of the Yelk faction of the Armenian Parliament, the faction’s candidate for the Prime Minister, says over the past month there have been figures both in the leadership and the opposition who behaved as a state figure.

During the meeting of Nikol Pashinyan and RPA faction in the Parliament, Vice Speaker of the Parliament Arpine Hovhannisyan asked the PM candidate whether he accepts the fact that during these years the Armenian leadership has taken into account the realities and demonstrated a behavior typical to a state and political figure. In response Nikol Pashinyan said over the past month there have been people both in the leadership and the opposition who behaved themselves like state figures.

“It is also thanks to this that we managed to move the processes so that now we don’t think on how to overcome the heavy consequences, but how to use this opportunity. We are not saying that this is only thanks to the opposition. I accept that during this period there have been people in the leadership who demonstrated a behavior typical to a state figure, and it is thanks to this that we have it”, Pashinyan said.

Arpine Hovhannisyan also asked with what criteria will be determined who are political prisoners and how he imagines the process of their free release. Nikol Pashinyan said certain ideas of decision-making must be used since concrete criteria must exist and institutional solution must be given to the issue.

The PM candidate stated that the only goal of the approach must be the restoration of solidarity.

Arpine Hovhannisyan asked who are going to be the responsible persons for successes or failures of the movement initiated by Pashinyan, the PM candidate said at this stage he personally and his movement are the responsible ones.
April 30 2018
PM candidate Pashinyan sees opportunity to solve domestic political crisis through discussions

MP Nikol Pashinyan, who was officially nominated by the Parliament’s Yelk faction as candidate for the Prime Minister, is convinced that there is an opportunity to overcome the current domestic political situation in Armenia through discussions, he said during the meeting with the Republican Party of Armenia faction in the Parliament, stating that they are inclined to completely use that opportunity.

“I think the recent events have accumulated a great positive energy. In general, the task of all political forces is to serve that energy for the benefit of the Republic of Armenia, its people and future. Of course, it is understandable that quite a heated process launched during this period, we have been one of its sides, and the next side was the RPA. It is understandable that during this period some tensions emerged. But it’s welcoming that this doesn’t hinder us to hold such working meetings, to be more mutually understandable and present views and ways to overcome the current situation”, Pashinyan said.

He highlighted that their task is to totally close the page of domestic political hostility in Armenia, establish an atmosphere of solidarity based on law and right. “Today the Republican Party, regardless of its stance on the recent events, has an opportunity to contribute to the establishment of atmosphere of that solidarity. As I said, such development will allow us not to have winners and losers as a result of this political process, but a real pan-national platform, since I think it’s obvious that this political process involved not only Armenians, but also majority of our compatriots of Diaspora. Eventually, the most important victory that should take place as a result of this process, is the victory of trust towards optimism and future”, the PM candidate said.

He said there is a unique and good opportunity to solve the inner-political crisis positively, with a positive result, to record the people’s victory which cannot and must not mean someone’s defeat.

BBC News, Yerevan
1 May 2018
Why Armenia 'Velvet Revolution' won without a bullet fired
By Rayhan Demytrie

Protesters objected to Serzh Sargsyan moving from president to the beefed-up role of prime minister.

Peaceful mass protests have brought a watershed moment to Armenia, a small landlocked, post-Soviet nation. On Tuesday, an opposition politician who harnessed a revolution faces a vote in parliament to become prime minister.
When Nikol Pashinyan, 42, set off on his "My Step" protest march on 31 March from Armenia's second city Gyumri, sporting his trademark khaki T-shirt, only a couple of dozen people joined him, and they were mainly journalists.
By the time the MP and ex-journalist had reached the capital Yerevan on 13 April, thousands more had joined his movement.

For many Armenians this is the first time since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 that they are able to believe in a better future. 
When a barman in your hotel opens a cupboard and pulls out the national flag to show that he supports the protest movement, you know something is fundamentally changing.

So too for the 17-year-old school student skipping class to attend two weeks of rallies, because he wants access to a better education; the villagers in remote areas who feel that their voices are finally being heard; and the 12-year-old children blocking roads in an act of nationwide civil disobedience.

Nikol Pashinyan says only he can root out corruption in Armenia and lead it to free parliamentary elections

"We've tried to protest in the past so many times, but those protests did not lead to any changes and people lost hope," says Meghri Gabrelian, the barman with the flag. "It's different this time because at last there is someone helping to lead us."

How Armenia's revolution unfolded
13 April - Thousands take to streets of Yerevan as Nikol Pashinyan's 14-day protest march arrives
17 April - As daily protests continue Serzh Sargsyan is elected Armenian prime minister by parliament, eight days after his two-term presidency ended
22 April - Nikol Pashinyan detained after talks collapse with Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan
23 April - Nikol Pashinyan released and Serzh Sargsyan resigns, admitting "I got it wrong"; soldiers join protests
27 April - The man appointed acting PM, Karen Karapetyan, rejects new talks
29 April - Ruling party says it will not pick a candidate to challenge opposition leader

Why did the protests start?
It was in 2008 that Serzh Sargsyan came to power as president amidst violent suppression of anti-government protests in which at least 10 people were killed. 
Fast forward 10 years. At the end of his second presidential term Serzh Sargsyan was about to become prime minister - a new and enhanced role, after changes to the constitution were passed by a 2015 referendum marred by widespread irregularities.
It was a miscalculation because many Armenians regarded his move essentially as a third presidential term by the back door.
"Most protesters are students who are unhappy about what's happening in the country," says protester and young IT specialist Ruben Elanakyan. "They are not the ones who grew up with Soviet propaganda, they are freer and that's why we are demanding our rights more freely."

Is this a rejection of Russia?
Much of what has happened here is unprecedented in any part of the former Soviet Union, including Russia's muted reaction to events.
Russia has a military base here and patrols the border with Turkey. Armenia is a member of President Vladimir Putin's Eurasian Economic Union and is part of Russia's regional military alliance. It has an unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and depends on Russia for security.

So Russia's stake in this country of 2.9 million people is significant. 
But Nikol Pashinyan has met a delegation of Russian MPs and gone out of his way to pledge deeper relations with Russia, as well as with Armenia's neighbours, the EU, US and China.

Although Serzh Sargsyan was seen as an ally of President Putin, the leader of Armenia's self-styled Velvet Revolution says he has been promised that Russia will not intervene. That is in marked contrast with Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution and Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution.

"It's not a colour revolution," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. 

"Everybody understands that the roots of this crisis in Armenia are domestic - unlike several previous cases in the post-Soviet space, where international presence was pretty clear." 

Russia knows that even if this pro-democracy movement prevails and Armenia embarks on a less corrupt chapter of its history, the country's economic and military dependence on Moscow will not change.

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