YEREVAN (A.W.)—This past weekend, a group of around 100 citizens from the grassroots initiative Չէ՛ք անցկացնի/No Pasaran (a term which, in English, translates to “You will not pass”) marched on Yerevan’s main streets to protest President Serge Sarkisian’s possible nomination to the role of prime minister.
Transitioning to the role of prime minister would ensure Sarkisian’s continued leadership of the country, since the constitutional changes his party spearheaded in 2015 have allocated major governing authorities to parliament (i.e. the prime minister), rather than the president (as it has been since the constitution was formed). The “No Pasaran” activists foreshadowed this possibility back in 2015, and the group was formed initially to compel citizens to vote “no” to the constitutional changes. When the referendum was passed, the group raised concerns for the numerous cases of election frauds during the referendum.
Davit Sanasaryan, one of the organizers, mentioned in his speech he gave during the march that they were marching against the president, and cited that in the last 10 years, Sarkisian’s regime has pushed approximately 400,000 citizens out of the country (by means of emigration); poverty has increased; and the foreign debt has escalated by $5 billion (USD). He called upon citizens to stand up to “false promises.” The protesters’ main slogan was a hashtag, #մերժիրսերժին (in English, “Reject Serge”), and many carried signs bearing satirical political cartoons by local alternative news site, Medialab.am.
The march reflected the discontent of certain segments of the population over the past months, which reached its peak after the vice president of the National Assembly, Eduard Sharmazanov, announced that President Sarkisian would consider the prime minister role—not out of personal wishes, but out of duty to the state (though this announcement in direct contradiction to the promise the president made in 2014 that he would pursue the prime minister role).
According to Tert.am, Sharmazanov compared the situation with the case of Winston Churchill or Charle de Gaulle, two political figures who also had made public promises, but “due to events, developments, and other situations, took steps years later that may have contradicted their words.” Sharmanazov also mentioned that President Sarkisian’s announcement about not becoming the prime minister or president in the future was made in different circumstances than the country is in now.
During the march, organizers announced that they had already began planning the next one, which is currently slated for April 9.