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Nikol Pashinyan Could be the Next Prime Minister of Armenia

The protesters lack any grand strategy but instead have used their power to demand change, says Lilit Gevorgyan of risk analysts IHS Markit.

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Pashinyan called a halt to the demonstrations Thursday as all sides try to negotiate a political solution.
Nikol Pashinyan, Leader of Opposition, Armenia- wikimedia commons

The ruling Republican party of Armenia has indicated it will support the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan’s bid to become the interim Prime Minister in a parliamentary vote scheduled for May 8.

The decision follows weeks of protests that forced the resignation of former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and culminated in blockades and strikes. Republicans had blocked Pashinyan’s bid to become prime minister in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday, bringing protesters back onto the streets.

Pashinyan called a halt to the demonstrations Thursday as all sides try to negotiate a political solution. Speaking Thursday, the Republican’s deputy head, Armen Ashotyan, told reporters that his party would support Pashinyan’s candidacy, so long as he won at least a third of the votes in parliament.

“We had two criteria to assist any candidate. The first is a necessary threshold of the signatures, amount of signatures, and the second is to calm down the situation on the streets, not blocking the interstate roads, airports, etcetera. So, the man who could cope with this criteria is considered to be Nikol Pashinyan and in case — before 8 May — he keeps these two criteria as promised, as agreed, we will assist his election.”

Opposition leader Pashinyan has been the figurehead of the protests, but it is a grassroots revolution, argues Gevorgyan.
Yerevan Parliament Armenia, wikimedia commons

If the May 8 vote fails to elect a prime minister, parliament will be dissolved and fresh elections will be called.

The protests erupted last month after Sargsyan was accused of manipulating the constitution to cling to power, fueled by frustration over poverty, corruption and poor governance.

The protests have been largely non-violent and appear on the verge of forcing a change of government.

“I have a feeling that I’m in another, new Armenia. And I am certain that the new government, the new leader will try to do his best for the people to have a decent living,” 40-year-old builder and Yerevan resident Seyran said Thursday.

The protesters lack any grand strategy but instead have used their power to demand change, says Lilit Gevorgyan of risk analysts IHS Markit.

“The next stage will be looking into the electoral law, to change it to make sure that the parties are real parties. Following that, there is an even bigger problem or obstacle or battle, and that will be holding free and fair elections,” said Gevorgyan.

Opposition leader Pashinyan has been the figurehead of the protests, but it is a grassroots revolution, argues Gevorgyan.
Republic Square Yerevan, wikimedia commons

Opposition leader Pashinyan has been the figurehead of the protests, but it is a grassroots revolution, argues Gevorgyan.

“People came out simply to protest and say that, ‘we don’t care who’s leading this movement, but we want to say that the system is failing to meet the basic needs of the state.’ Inability to rein in oligarchs, close the wealth gap, deal with the fact that every third Armenian is earning two dollars per day and is below the poverty line,” said Gevorgyan.

Outside Yerevan, that poverty is starkly evident. Sixty kilometers (37 miles) north lies the village of Lusagyugh. Locals say there is no work, only subsistence farming. A third of the houses are empty as families have gone abroad for work, mainly to Russia.

Among them was 20-year-old Samwel Zakaryan, who left his home village last year. Now he’s back and studying at a technical school in Yerevan and he has barely missed a day of the protests.

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“Many people participate in protests. I participate, too. Today I didn’t have time. Otherwise, I participate every day. We go to Yerevan and come back. Most of my friends are there now,” Zakaryan said.

Their protests could be about to put the opposition leader into the most powerful office of state. But with political and legal hurdles to overcome, analysts say this is likely the opening battle for Armenia’s future. (VOA)

 

Next Story

What’s Changed in Armenia One Year After The Revolution?

We have a portion of society here that wants to live well but isn't prepared to work for it. That's why the prime minister (Nikol Pashinian) is struggling at times to do his best -- because people are unwilling to help.

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Radek, shepherd in the village of Lernavan
Radek, shepherd in the village of Lernavan. RFERL

There’s no future in what we do. Selling sweets next to a highway? Until when? If there was a factory here, I could have a decent, stable job.

When the revolution was happening, we didn’t know much about what was going on. We had a sense that things were about to improve. But so far we don’t see any changes. Our roof has a problem and we heard there’s an initiative to fix all the damaged roofs in the villages. It’s a new law, apparently. We don’t know if it’s true or not, but we really hope the government will carry this out.

Some days we sell our sweets or fruit and my kids get to eat; other days nothing and they go hungry. At times they don’t even have shoes to go to school in. Why should we work on the side of the highway? We need factories here. If there was a factory, we’d have a stable income, like in the old days.

Hayk Simonian, math teacher in the village of Bagaran​
Hayk Simonian, math teacher in the village of Bagaran​. RFERL

I don’t think anything has changed in the education system yet. I can see our new government doesn’t know where to start to make the situation better. I can’t say it’s bad, it’s just very confused.

They ask for a lot, but they don’t give us the tools we need. Until recently we only had one computer at school, but every day the teachers had to enter their assessments online. Nineteen teachers, one computer, a lot of work and very, very slow Internet. What the hell?

I can tell the government about these problems, but they can’t do anything because they don’t have the resources. That’s why they should be focused on the quality of teaching, not paperwork or online record keeping.

A lot of the kids don’t have a target in life. They’re lost. That stems from education: If you have decent schooling, if you understand the world around you, you want to be part of that world. I want to give the kids a sense of purpose.

Artak Simonian, priest in Echmiadzin
Artak Simonian, priest in Echmiadzin. RFERL

A revolution is like a stormy tide. It brings jewels and lost rings, valuable watches, etc. But along with this treasure, a lot of trash is brought in too. The people are still excited because of the waves of this tide — everyone is ready to change their lives. But now we have to wait for the tide to retreat before we can see what’s left. Is it trash, or is it treasure? Right now, it’s too early to say.

Here in Echmiadzin, though, we feel the changes. Each region might have had its own Manvel, so the city feels the benefits of the revolution very deeply. Now people feel happiness within themselves. (Editor’s note: Manvel Grigorian is a prominent retired general and lawmaker arrested shortly after the 2018 events who is now facing multiple charges including extortion.)

Astghik Khachatrian, barista in Yerevan​
Astghik Khachatrian, barista in Yerevan​. RFERL

We were very excited when the revolution was happening. Now, for me personally, I would say I’m very disappointed. Nothing has changed.

I expected the nepotism to end. The new government needs to enact something to allow young people to fulfill their potential regardless of the connections they might or might not have.

I want to see a prosperous Armenia. I want to see people satisfied in their jobs, not this constant slog with tiny rewards. In Armenia this is very common. I know people in the ministry who take their papers home and work into the night, but they get paid so little.

Ruzan Avoyan, fruit seller in Gyumri​
Ruzan Avoyan, fruit seller in Gyumri​. RFERL

Gyumri is a poor town. It’s very hard to sell things here. It’s the same as always; if you don’t work, no one will help you. The revolution was not a failure, but let me put it this way: A revolution is like getting an empty new house; you still have to fix it up and furnish it. Only an idiot would think a revolution alone will solve everything.

I was caught outside in the earthquake with my kids. (Editor’s note: That 1988 disaster leveled most of Gyumri and killed some 25,000 people.) All we were left with was the clothes we were in. So I took the initiative and built my own house. Some locals are still waiting for new houses to be given to them while living in temporary shelters. Men saying, “Give me candy”!

Why should the government do that? God gave you a brain and a tongue. Use them! The government doesn’t have any money, so stop expecting it.

 

We make money from our animals up here in the mountains, so we haven’t really been affected economically. In the Soviet period, there were factories here and we had work. Nothing else matters. People will be able to live a decent life if they have stable jobs. I have three women at home. I support all of them; they just do housework and work in the fields because there’s no employment for them. We’re not closed-minded, we want our women to earn and develop their careers too.

Varujan Harutyunyan, farmer in a village near Yeghegnadzor
Varujan Harutyunyan, farmer in a village near Yeghegnadzor. RFERL

Before the revolution there were almost no opportunities for the small players in the export business; it was a monopoly. Legally, nothing has changed. But the antimonopoly laws are actually working now.

I love farming because you see the results of your labor — if you work hard, you make decent money. I can bring in $1,000 a month if I push myself.

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I think of the country as a family: If everyone in the household is working, then that family will succeed. But if there’s no will to work, then the family will fail. We have a portion of society here that wants to live well but isn’t prepared to work for it. That’s why the prime minister (Nikol Pashinian) is struggling at times to do his best — because people are unwilling to help.

People say there’s no work in Armenia. I disagree — people are just picky. Don’t sit around waiting for something, just get to work. Do what you’re good at and the income will come. If everyone could grab all the opportunities they had, we could have our dream country. (RFERL)