What Next After Armenia’s Velvet Revolution?

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It is a time of hesitation and meditation. All “color” revolutions in the past decade have brought confusion and turmoil in their wake. Can Armenia’s velvet revolution prove to be any different and better because it was executed bloodlessly?

This is the major question at this juncture as we ponder Armenia’s future.

Color revolutions bypassed Armenia in the past several years as a breeze, but this one hit as a tsunami and overthrew the administration that was running the country for the past decades.

Understandably, there is euphoria in the country because the youth rose against the regime to bring about change. And in this euphoria, any opinion other than praising the youth and its achievement is tantamount to blasphemy. But since Armenia’s future is in the balance, all factors have to be counted and all potential consequences be considered.

Comparatively, it is always easy to bring down a system or structure than build a replacement.

Almost two weeks ago, Nikol Pashinyan, the head of the parliamentary group Yelk, hit the road to tour the country with a single mind and single motto: “Reject Serjik.” As the latter was in the process of anointing himself as the prime minister, under the new constitution establishing parliamentary rule. He was also about to reappoint almost all the old faces to the ministerial posts, giving a signal that nothing was to change for the foreseeable future in the running of the country. That signal was enough to fuel Pashinyan’s mission and rally the youth around him.

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By the time he concluded his walkathon and arrived in Yerevan, Liberty Square was bustling with unprecedented numbers of young people. That is where he began his fiery speeches to dismantle the system. He was the only voice heard on the podium and the only person making decisions.

Unlike the old traditions of the opposition rallies where multiple voices harangued the authorities, he sidestepped other opposition figures like Edmond Maroukian of Lousavor Hayastan and Zarouhi Postanjian of Tsirani Party who were equally vocal opponents of Serzh Sargsyan’s rule.

This was Pashinyan’s doing and he was determined to bring the battle to its final conclusion.

The reason no bloodshed was witnessed was that both camps were painfully and instinctively aware of the fact that Armenia was under blockade and at war with its mortal enemies. Serzh Sargsyan, still with the reverberations of March 1, 2008 killings on his mind, refrained from engaging his policies of force other than keeping order. That may have been to his detriment, but for the good of the people in the conflict.

On the other hand, Pashinyan constantly stressed to the crowd that the battle had to be conducted exclusively through peaceful, non-violent methods. All temptations for conflict were contained by both sides, which encouraged people to come out and join the marches.

The movement climaxed on April 22, when Serzh Sargsyan and Nikol Pashinyan confronted each other at the Marriott Hotel to exchange ultimatums.

The prime minister challenged Pashinyan’s claim to be representative of the majority of the people. Pashinyan replied he was meeting his opponent only to discuss the terms of his surrender. He also added that Sargsyan was out of touch with reality, which Sargsyan acknowledged in his parting salvoes, his resignation letter, stating that Pashinyan was right.

Following the resignation, the entire cabinet submitted its resignation, in keeping with the new constitution’s terms.

President Armen Sarkisian accepted the resignation and asked all parties to help build a new Armenia.

On April 25, acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan was going to meet with Pashinyan at the Marriott Hotel to make a peaceful transfer of power to the representative of the people. Pashinyan considers himself to be that “representative,” because during his last rally, he asked the crowed to confer upon him that title and he received it with acclamation. The meeting, however, was cancelled by Karapetyan, who balked at Pashinyan’s forcing the terms of the talk.

It remains to be seen if that transfer will be made without any problems or legal issues will come to delay it.

Pashinyan has been broadcasting his policies and his agenda for everyone to be aware. After the transfer of power, he is planning to appoint a transition cabinet and within a “reasonably early date” to organize new parliamentary elections.

In the meantime, he is requesting the ruling Republican Party to immediately recognize the “new order” established by the “people’s representatives.”

Another item on the agenda is to free all political prisoners immediately.

His other agenda items are so idealistic that they seem to have been written in paradise. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

For example, he urges that there be no vendetta against anyone. But the atmosphere is so changed and Pashinyan’s message of anger all along has been so powerful that it will be too good to be true. It is rumored that already, one grocery chain, SAS, is being boycotted because it belongs to a hated oligarch.

Also, there will be no persecution against the businesspeople who are packing up to move out of the country and transferring their capital abroad.

No one is allowed to assume that there was any collusion between the leaders of the velvet revolution and any outside forces, never mind that all the tactics of the revolution were derived from the textbook application of other color revolutions.

Pashinyan has assured everyone that this was a purely Armenian revolution and it will bring peace, brotherhood, freedom and friendship to all its citizens.

Without any bias, we have to revisit the case of all revolutions, be they French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, you name it. The charismatic leaders have proven to be extremely effective in inflaming the imagination of the masses through catchy slogans, and after the revolutions, they have turned to be most inept rulers; and to compensate for their failure, they resort to violence or established dictatorships.

Since this velvet revolution was bloodless, let us take Pashinyan’s word that we are heading towards a peaceful Armenia.

The proof of the exclusion of a vendetta may be demonstrated by reassigning some of the ministers from the previous administration in the ruling group of the Fourth Republic.

The velvet revolution resonated in the diaspora and the corridors of world powers.

In the diaspora, the political parties sympathized with the people’s movement but they had a cautious approach to its potential outcome. The ARF, which was in the coalition with the ruling Republican Party, made an about face to greet the prime minister’s ouster. Mostly, the diasporan voice was the voice of the recent immigrants from Armenia.

It is the least one can say that all parties and groups are relieved to see the collapse of a very unpopular regime in the homeland.

The international community was certainly interested in the developments in Armenia. For the West, any turmoil in Russia’s backyard is a welcome occasion; that is why no reaction is heard yet in view of the prime minister’s resignation. On the other hand, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova has telegraphed that Russia is always with Armenia.

A similar message has been received from Valery Peskov, President Putin’s spokesperson. The grapevine news is that Putin has signaled both camps to get over the crisis as quickly as possible.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have advanced their elections to consolidate power at home, in preparation for a new campaign against Armenia.

Armenia needed fresh air and fortunately, the younger generation is delivering that new vision. Let us hope that inexperience does not interfere in the march to the creation of a new Armenia.

The Armenian world, and the world beyond, will be wondering what is next after this velvet revolution.

 

 

 

 

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