Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has resigned after nation wide protests, which was in fact the primary demand of the activists. Sargsyan was supposedly nominated again for the position Prime Minister despite having previously served two terms, something that protesters would not tolerate and proceeded to demonstrate. In his resignation statement Sargsyan said, “I am leaving the post of Armenia’s prime minister, the country’s leader. The street protests are opposed to my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand. I appeal to you as the country’s leader for the last time. Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong. The current situation has several resolutions, but I will not invoke any of them.” The primary fear felt by Armenians was that a dictatorship was slowly forming. The formerly titled, President Sargsyan made constitutional changes in 2015 that gave the PM more power than the president which was perhaps tied to his plans at the time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan have taken similar action to acheive what much of the world views as dictatorships. When President Putin completed to presidential terms he moved to the position of prime minister before returning to presidency in 2012. President Erdogan spent several years as prime minister before becoming president, in that time he made successful efforts to give the presidential office more power. Many of Sargsyan critics claim that he has close ties to President Vladimir Putin, something that Armenians are wary of.
While the majority of Armenian news outlets did not cover the protests, they are viewed as pro-government, the TV news company GALA maintained coverage for the entirety; GALA is the only opposition based outlet in the country. GALA’s executive director Karine Harutyunian expressed her pleasure at the news of President Sargsyan’s resignation saying, “I am almost crying. You can’t imagine the scale of rejoicing throughout the whole of Armenia now.” Two of GALA’s cameramen were injured by the police while covering the protests.
Director Harutyunian explained the reasoning for the protests by saying, “The regime he created is run by his inner circle. He is connected to it by mutual criminal actions – corruption, devastation of the country, authoritarian rule. Holding a state position was impossible if the person was not a member of the ruling party. People and their families were threatened, elections were rigged. However the most decisive step happened after a referendum devoted to changing Armenia’s form of government to a parliamentary one. Sargsyan promised that he would not make claims to the post of prime minister. The referendum was falsified. During the nomination of the candidates, Sargsyan’s inner circle put him forward. It cased outage among the people.” She added that, “Some people trusted him, some considered him as a populist. But this time, many people decided to go after him.”
She continued to elaborate on the situation saying, “People demand early parliamentary elections. We are now faced with the question of who will temporarily lead the country. The external debt of Armenia is about $7 bn, about 45% of the population are poor, according to the Freedom House research, the unemployment rate is high, people are leaving the country.” Armenia faces some long and hard roads now but has a chance of being on the right track.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Press Service of the Government of the Republic of Armenia [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons