RFE/RL Armenian Report – 02/20/2021

                                        Saturday, 

Armenian Opposition Resumes Anti-Government Protests

        • Artak Khulian

Armenia -- Opposition supporters demonstrate in Yerevan to demand Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian's resignation, February 2021.

Traffic was brought to a standstill in much of central Yerevan on Saturday as an 
alliance of more than a dozen Armenian opposition parties resumed street 
protests aimed at forcing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to resign.

The Homeland Salvation Movement alliance rallied several thousand supporters in 
the city’s Liberty Square in what its coordinator, Ishkhan Saghatelian, 
described as a “new start of our movement” sparked by the autumn war with 
Azerbaijan.

“As long as Nikol [Pashinian] is in power there will be no stability, peace and 
calm in our country,” Saghatelian told the crowd that gathered in the square 
amid a heavy snowfall. The opposition forces will continue “nonstop” civil 
disobedience actions in the days ahead, he said.

At the organizers’ urging, the protesters split and marched in four different 
directions after the rally, chanting “Armenia without Nikol!” and blocking major 
street intersections in the city center. Riot police did not attempt to disperse 
them and guarded key government buildings instead.

The opposition alliance blames Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week 
war in Nagorno-Karabakh stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10. 
It staged a series of demonstrations later in November and December in a bid to 
force him to hand over power to an interim government.


Armenia -- The opposition Homeland Salvation Movement holds a rally at Liberty 
Square in Yerevan, .

Those protests did not attract large crowds, leading Pashinian to insist that he 
still has a popular mandate to govern the country.

The prime minister also expressed readiness on December 25 to hold snap 
parliamentary elections to end the political crisis in the country. Opposition 
leaders continued to insist on his resignation.

The ruling My Step bloc pointed to the opposition stance when it stated on 
February 7 that Pashinian and his allies see no need to dissolve the current 
parliament. It also claimed that most Armenians do not want snap elections. The 
Homeland Salvation Movement announced afterwards its decision to resume 
anti-government rallies.

“As long as there are upheavals there will be no development in our country. If 
they don’t resign things will get even worse,” Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of 
the movement’s largest party, Prosperous Armenia, said in a speech delivered 
during the Liberty Square rally.

“Armenia must boil. There must be daily rallies. The city must be paralyzed,” 
said Vazgen Manukian, another opposition leader whom the alliance wants to take 
over as a caretaker prime minister after Pashinian’s resignation.


Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian speaks at an 
opposition rally in Yerevan, .

Manukian also declared that the opposition should be prepared to mount an 
“uprising” if it fails to topple Pashinian with conventional street protests. 
“We will follow Plan A but must always be ready for Plan B,” he said.

Saghatelian, who is affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation 
(Dashnaktsutyun), backed the idea when he spoke with journalists after the 
rally. He said Armenians have a right to revolt against “this government of 
evil.” He stressed at the same time they must be patient and ready for a 
prolonged struggle against Pashinian’s administration.

While demanding Pashinian’s resignation, Tsarukian and another opposition 
leader, former National Security Service Director Artur Vanetsian, again made 
clear that their parties would participate in possible fresh elections organized 
by the current authorities. Other alliance leaders, notably Manukian, believe 
the opposition should boycott such a vote.

Saturday’s rally was timed to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of the start of 
a popular movement for Karabakh’s unification with Armenia.

Pashinian issued a statement on the anniversary. “I am sure that, like many 
peoples who have faced serious problems throughout their history, the Armenian 
people will soon heal the wounds of the past war and take even more decisive and 
firm steps into the future,” he said.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2021 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


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