Armenia’s Political Tension Erupts In Violence


Global Insight
March 3, 2008

Armenia’s post-election tensions erupted into violence on Saturday (1
March). The government pushed tanks and police into the square full
of supporters of Lev Ter-Petrossian, who were contesting the result
of the 19 February poll that gave yjr presidency to the current Prime
Minister Serzh Sargsyan. Protesters clashed with the police, causing
eight fatalities and numerous injuries. The outgoing President Robert
Kocharian has imposed a state of emergency in the country, but the
Council of Europe has questioned the imperative of the measure. The
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has called on parties for
restraint, while the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE), the election watchdog, is sending a special envoy to
the country. Ter-Petrossian, in the meantime, is reportedly under
house arrest.

Significance:Armenia is coming close to an electoral revolution like
the Orange (Ukraine 2004) and Rose (Georgia 2003) revolutions that are
dreaded by post-Soviet leaders. The Armenian government has sought
to show Western observers a degree of democratic openness in the
country, and tolerated expressions of discontent and a fair amount
of open criticism from the opposition. As Ter-Petrossian, its most
formidable rival, proved able to keep people out in the streets for
eight days, it realised he had started tipping the balance in his
favour and ordered in the tanks. With the deaths caused, however,
there is no easy way out of the current turmoil. The authorities will
have to make concessions to Ter-Petrossian, who appears confident of
being able to get hold of power altogether. International mediation
may become crucial, to bring together the panicking but powerful
government and confident yet resource-poor opposition leader.

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