Democracy Triumphs in Armenia

Nikol Pashinya addresses a rally in Yerevan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Nikol Pashinya addresses a rally in Yerevan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Armenian people have set a unique example for the democratic activists across the world through a nonviolent Velvet Revolution and danced its ways to victory.

In Armenia, an oriental orthodox nation, Nikol Pashinyan could do well as a saint when his ‘prophecy’ took less than four months to renovate the political system of the country.  But Mr. Pashinyan is a Rockstar politician of Armenia today who is going to be the Prime Minister of the country soon. Four months ago, when a TV anchor asked Pashinyan if he asked Santa Claus for something political, Pashinyan replied: “I think in politics, people are the Santa Claus. And I want our people to realize that the notion that they cannot change anything is wrong, that in fact, they decide their destiny.”

Armenian people did listen to Nikol Pashinyan. They changed their destiny in a smooth bloodless ‘velvet revolution’ in late April. They have challenged the Republican Party oligarchy that remained in power of small landlocked Armenia ever since the independence of the country.

The jubilant youths of Yerevan weakened the Republican oligarchy without even questioning the relevance of the system. A well-planned and determined campaign with a specific target to remove the icon of Republican power Mr. Sargasyan that eventually debilitated the ruling elites turned out to be an effective lesson for the democratic activists across the world. The movement to remove the former Prime Minister Sargasyan have shaken the whole ruling oligarchy in a way that seemed unrealistic at the beginning of the nonviolent campaign.

The Armenians took to the street against the former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan’s desire to stick to power after a controversial reformation of the constitution. The Armenian constitution was transformed into a Parliamentarian system in 2015 to pave the then President Sargsyan, who already served twice as president, a way to stick to power as prime minister. The Armenians, however, took to the street in thousands. They had party in the streets, danced and sang; a form of protests rarely seen and forced Sargsyan to resign. The youths of Armenia proved that they have learned to decide their destiny.

The emergence of Nikol Pashinya

Nikol Pashinyan, the ‘saint’ of Armenian politics, was a journalist who had a say about politics. In 2008, when he was the editor of The Armenian Times, he took part in the deadly protests erupted after the presidential election. He served two years in prison from June 2009 to May 2011. After pardoned in 2012, Mr. Pashinyan was elected to the National Assembly of Armenia. He leads an opposition political alliance called Way Out in the Armenian Parliament. The alliance has 9 out of 105 seats in the Armenian parliament.

Mr. Pashinyan, however, turned out to be a big factor in the Armenian political landscape when protests erupted against the prolonging rule of Serzh Sargsyan. With the jubilant crowd in the Yerevan streets chanting “Merzhir Serzhin, or Reject Serzh” slogans, Nikol Pashinyan gradually began to emerge as the icon of people’s expectation. The Armenians put their faith in Nikol Pashinyan.

After Sargasyan stepped down, the opposition MPs announced their support for Nikol Pashinyan as their prime ministerial candidate. But the ruling Republican Party refused to support Pashinyan’s candidacy. As a result, Mr. Pashinyan called for a mass demonstration against the ruling oligarchy. His announcement of new protests prompted the ruling elites to announce that they will support whoever wins one-third of the votes. Thus, all the obstacles for Nikol Pashinyan to become the new Armenian Prime Minister were removed. Now, Armenia is ready to brace him as their new leader on May 8.

Armenian Foreign Policy Remains ‘Unchanged’

Russia has two military bases in Armenia and it is speculated that a peace treaty to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis was never signed because of Russian influence in Armenia. Moscow seems to love to work as a security guarantor for the landlocked neighbor of Azerbaijan.

The Kremlin is often seen to intervene in the former satellite states of the Soviet Union. They intervened in Ukraine when the pro-Russian oligarchy fell in Kiev. They even annexed Crimea from Ukraine and leading a proxy war in Donbass of Ukraine for years.

Now Armenia, in spite of being no exception for Russia, escaped Russian intervention. The campaign against Sargasyan was so clear and concise that it succeeded to make Moscow understand that they are not getting tied up in any geopolitical games between the West and Russia. Mr. Pashinyan insisted that the Velvet Revolution was all about Armenia.

With Mr. Pashinyan in power, Armenian foreign policy regarding Russia or Azerbaijan may remain unchanged. Mr. Pashinyan’s ascension to power may not also shake the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh. But the massive support Pashinyan enjoys, he will have stronger authority than any Republican leader ever had to decide the destiny of Armenia.  As for now, Armenian people have triumphed over the ruling oligarchy; a remarkable achievement for the democracy in Armenia.

About Masum Billah 37 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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