Protesters are entering their ninth day of demonstrations in Armenia’s capital. As events are transpiring extremely quickly, here’s our roundup of main events from the last few days, with most recent events first.
Just hours ago, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian has responded to the calls of opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan, leader of the protests, to hold negotiations and recently turned up in Republic Square for a conversation. According to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Sarkissian was greeted with shouts of “President, reject Serge!” as he entered the sprawling square hours after renewing his calls for a dialogue between the government and protesters.
They spoke for 15 minutes, press were not allowed near the conversation. Pashinyan explained that he said he will go for a negotiation only to discuss peaceful transformation of the government and PM Serge Sarkisian’s resignation. He repeated his requirements (listed by CivilNet below) and asked the protesters to authorize him to participate in such a negotiation, to which he was met with cheers.
Pashinyan’s road map:
1.S.Sargsyan resigns from PMship
1. Parliament elections/the people’s choice for PM
3. interim govt formed
4.legislative changes made to electoral code, pol parties law, so that a fair &free election takes place.
5.elections announced.#rejectSerzh #Armenia
— CivilNet.AM (@CivilNetTV) April 21, 2018
Another highlight, on April 19, Serge Sarkisian gave a rare interview with Shant TV’s Aram Abrahamian, answering hard hitting questions about the protests taking place in the city. In it, he suggested that the protests did not just indicate societal dissatisfaction with the government, but instead, were a symbol of that his government has created an environment in which individuals can express their dissatisfaction peacefully, which he believes is “good for the ruling party and for those protesting.”
He said that issues arise, however, was when the grievances of a few begin to affect the rest of the population. When asked about his critics, he said, “I have a piece of advice for people who dislike me: wait and see the country advance, make your conclusions, and if they do not make you happy, vote for someone else in the next elections.” Critics argued that his answers did not acknowledge that the idea of continued rule might be problematic. Read more excerpts from the interview on Mediamax.am.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) has also made statements regarding the protests, which we published, in which they called on political forces in the government “to create a platform for political dialogue, in order to find common solutions to the existing problems and to resolve the current situation in the country.” Supplementing this, ARF Bureau chair Hrant Markarian made similar statements in an interview with the Public Television of Armenia (1TV) on April 20.
The last few days have witnessed prominent Armenian diasporans react to the protests. On April 16, Canadian-Armenian actress Arsinée Khanjian published an open letter to prime minister Serge Sarkisian to her Facebook page. “Armenia will not explode by outside enemy forces if you’re no longer at its helm,” she wrote, “Armenia will implode from within it because you and your Republican Party colleagues continue to ignore the citizens craving and belief in a democracy that is our only hope and strategy to survive.”
Pashinyan responded to Khanjian’s letter by saying “the recipient isn’t home” and that she and other prominent figures, like Charles Aznavour and Serj Tankian, should come to Yerevan, to support protesters and raise the profile of the demonstrations. In one of his speeches, he noted that the last time Republic Square was this crowded was the System of a Down concert in 2015, which commemorated the centenary of Armenian Genocide and brought thousands to Republic Square.
SOAD lead singer, Serj Tankian, has also been vocal in his reactions to the protests. It was rumored in several news sites that he had planned a trip to Armenia to support the cause, but he later claimed they were false. “It seems like the issue of my presence in Armenia is causing quite a stir,” he wrote, “I apologize for that although I truly had nothing to do with it.”
Last night, he published a video, dedicated to “Armenia’s peaceful resistance.” In it, he praised young people and the civil disobedience of the movement. He also gave tips to protesters and unveiled a new song, which he said he wrote following the Electric Yerevan protests in 2015.