YEREVAN—Protests, demonstrations, and various acts of civil disobedience against former President Serge Sarkisian’s election as Armenia’s Prime Minister continue to rage in Yerevan for a seventh straight day.
Riot police, equipped with shields and batons, barricaded a government building in downtown Yerevan, the entrance of which was being blocked by supporters of the growing anti-Sarkisian movement. The building houses the country’s Ministries of Agriculture, Labor, Health, Social Affairs, various other government agencies and offices.
According to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, a larger number of security forces, among them masked special unit officers, arrived at the scene after protesters formed a human chain around the building and detained at least 20 protesters and forcibly removed several more.
“We are calling on you not to be afraid and to declare that you don’t recognize the authority of Serge Sarkisian and ministers appointed by him,” Nikol Pashinyan, who has been a central opposition figure and organizer of the acts of civil disobedience, appealed to civil servants. “Take a step and reject Serge,” Pashinyan said according to RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
On April 17, Armenia’s National Assembly elected former President Serge Sarkisian as Prime Minister of Armenia, with 76 votes in favor and 17 against. Sarkisian was supported his Republican Party (RPA), its coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), as well as more than a dozen lawmakers representing businessman Gagik Tsarukyan’s party, Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), though Tsarukyan himself did not attend the session.
The vote was boycotted by Pashinyan and three other deputies from the Yelk (“Way Out”) alliance, who have been busy organizing the mass demonstrations. Pashinyan, who is continuing the protests in spite of the election, called for a “velvet revolution” (a term referencing the nonviolent political transition in Czechoslovakia from communism to a Western-style democracy at the end of 1989). The remaining five Yelk parliamentarians attended the session, voting against Sarkisian.
For the last seven days, there have been least three initiatives organizing protests in Armenia. One of these is #մերժիրսերժին (or, #rejectserge in English). Although it started small, it gained support as it progressed, particularly from youth.The two other groups are Front for Armenian State that was formed in Nov. 2017 and held protests in the past months, and the initiative #իմքայլը (#mystep) which is the initiative of the political party Civil Contract .
All three initiatives have joined forces for the protests, which continue throughout the city, and have attracted tens of thousands of supporters. Follow RFE/RL’s live stream below.
Note: The Armenian Weekly is closely following the event unfolding in Yerevan and will provide continued updates.