Thursday, August 25, 2016

Caucasus Report

Is Armenia On The Brink Of A 'Barevolution'?

“I can only say that at the cost of my life, I will not permit even one drop of blood to be shed,” the daily “Aysor” quoted Raffi Hovannisian as saying.
“I can only say that at the cost of my life, I will not permit even one drop of blood to be shed,” the daily “Aysor” quoted Raffi Hovannisian as saying.
For the fourth time in 17 years, a defeated Armenian presidential candidate has openly denounced the outcome of the ballot as rigged and declared himself the legitimately elected president.

The candidate in question is U.S.-born former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian. According to official returns, he polled 36.8 percent of the vote, compared with 58.6 percent for incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian.

Meeting with Sarkisian on February 21, Hovanissian suggested three alternative courses of action, all of which Sarkisian rejected: that Sarkisian acknowledge him as the rightful election winner; that Sarkisian call a repeat presidential ballot; or that Sarkisian schedule early parliamentary elections in which all of the 131 mandates would be allocated under the proportional system.

Hovannisian’s Zharangutiun party won just five seats in the May 2012 elections, down from seven in 2007.

On February 28, Hovannisian plans to convene a large-scale "national rally" in Yerevan to launch a "prolonged struggle" to "return power to the people."  He dubbed that process a "barevolution," a wordplay on the colloquial Armenian greeting "barev" (good day). The hallmark of Hovannisian’s election campaign was approaching potential voters in the street to talk to them.

In some respects, the current situation recalls that of five years ago, when former President Levon Ter-Petrossian denounced as falsified the official results that gave him just 21.51 percent of the vote compared with 52.82 for Sarkisian. Ter-Petrossian and his supporters set up a tent camp on Yerevan’s Freedom Square. Tens of thousands of people attended daily rallies in his support.

Ter-Petrossian, too, appealed to the Constitutional Court -- without success -- to annul the vote. The standoff ended on March 1, 2008, when police and security personnel first launched a dawn raid to expel protesters from Freedom Square, then that evening confronted protesters elsewhere in the city. Ten people died in the resulting violence.

Serzh Sarkisian speaks at a rally in the Kotayk region in January.
Serzh Sarkisian speaks at a rally in the Kotayk region in January.
Hovannisian, by contrast, has convened just three postelection meetings in Yerevan, on February 20, 22, and 24. On all three occasions, attendance was in the thousands rather than tens of thousands. A larger number of people turned out on February 23 in smaller provincial towns and in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city, where Hovannisian polled nearly 70 percent of the vote, compared with 23 percent for Sarkisian. But no one showed up in the small town of Goris, where Hovannisian was scheduled to speak on February 27.

Of Armenia’s opposition parties, only the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun has thrown its support behind Hovannisian. Ter-Petrossian has said he is convinced the vote was rigged and that Hovannisian won but has not committed his Armenian National Congress (HAK) to join the protests.

The Prosperous Armenia Party, whose faction is the second-largest in the parliament elected in May 2012, released a statement noting public dissatisfaction with the country’s leadership, calling for restraint, and advocating the consolidation of "all influential political forces" to draft and implement a "road map" leading to sweeping democratic and economic reforms. None of those three parties either fielded its own presidential candidate or endorsed a candidate from another party. There have been no reports of government officials resigning to side with Hovannisian, the way some did in sympathy with Ter-Petrossian in 2008.

The modest attendance at Hovannisian’s Yerevan rallies led political commentator Tatul Hakobian to observe that Hovannisian is finding it difficult to mobilize the optimum level of support. Public Council Chairman Vazgen Manukian, Ter-Petrossian's closest rival in the 1996 presidential election, predicted that "there will be meetings, but they will peter out.... People will become disillusioned with Hovannisian."

Ter-Petrosssian, for his part, told a HAK meeting last week that Hovannisian lacks a clear plan of action that would force the Sarkisian administration to cave in. "I see words, I see speeches, but there is no action, no plan of action," the former president said.

Hovannisian has hinted that he will appeal to the Constitutional Court to annul the election results and schedule a repeat ballot. But as the daily "Hayots ashkhar" pointed out on February 26, it is not clear what evidence of election fraud Hovannisian could present to the Constitutional Court, given that he demanded ballot recounts in only a handful of polling stations. According to Central Election Commission Chairman Tigran Mukuchian, Sarkisian would still have had enough votes to secure reelection outright even if the commission had accepted Hovannisian’s demand to invalidate the official vote results in 118 of the 2,000 precincts.

In his interviews over the past week, Hovannisian has consistently stressed that the percentage of the vote he garnered and the support shown for his efforts to have the vote annulled reflect the maturity of Armenian civil society and the intensity of people’s desire for democratic change. At the same time, he has affirmed that he will do all in his power to prevent a repeat of the bloodshed of 2008.

"I can only say that at the cost of my life, I will not permit even one drop of blood to be shed," the daily "Aysor" quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Sarkisian is in a strong position given the generally positive assessment of the vote by international monitors and the fact that both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso have offered formal congratulations on his reelection.

There is, however, one factor that could impel Sarkisian to seek some kind of accommodation with Hovannisian and that is the danger that Azerbaijan might launch a major offensive to win back the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region in order to avert the (admittedly remote) possibility of Hovannisian coming to power in an orange "barevolution" and making good on his campaign promise to recognize the territory as an independent state.

It is not clear whether the hint by parliament Chairman Hovik Abrahamian that Sarkisian is open to "reasonable proposals" from Hovannisian and could even offer him a government post was made with that worst-case scenario in mind.

Whatever Sarkisian’s motives, it is unlikely Hovannisian would be tempted by such an offer.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 28, 2013 15:27
Lots of talking turkey from people who should know better-there`s not going to be any revolutionin Armenia,not by a long shot!!! If somebody thinks the rashkas are going to give up power to an american born dashnack backed politician he must have his head examined by a vet.We are talking about Soviet Armenia,the other Armenia is just in the hearts and minds of wishful thinkers,and they`d better wake up to the axe murderers` reality!!!
In Response

by: Kevork from: USA
February 28, 2013 16:52
@Camel Anaturk... "the other Armenia is just in the hearts and minds of wishful thinkers"... clearly you underestimate Armenians. Kurdistan is also a fairy tale by a bunch of wishful thinkers... and if it ever comes to reality, your only hope of its success is to deal with those wishful thinking Armenians, otherwise your non-existent Kurdistan will remain non-existent.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 28, 2013 19:04
Sirely Kev.djan,the kurds struck a deal with the americans and now they have a state in Iraq,same thing is going to happen in Syria,when Assad falls.So its the shamericans and the yahoodies you have to deal with and nobody,but,nobody man underestimates the armenians-its just they overestimate themselves after too much patlamish and cognac udel hmel and abushutiun hosel.So your bros and sis will have to deal with their bigger than life egos if they want to achieve something,but as usual they will opt for udel& hmel-thats eating and drinking instead.The world is not a Glendale,my haidarag hai and you`d better pray for the oil to run out!!!Vonts es???
In Response

by: Kevork from: USA
February 28, 2013 19:55
Bunch of nonsense. America and the rest of the world could care less if Kurdistan exists or not, as long as they remain good little servants to the west with Iraqi oil, all kinds of empty promises will be granted. And no Kurdistan does not exist, no country recognizes Kurdistan as a country, it is merely an autonomous region in Iraq, and a fantasy in eastern Turkey. The Kurds joined in the genocide fest of the Turks in 1915, a hundred years later they are in no better position, and Armenia exists and today Karabakh is also independent. I am glad we have wishful thinkers, in 1988 it was our wishful thinking which allowed us to take the steps towards independence of both Armenia and Artsakh. Good luck with your Kurdistan, if you think you can ignore Armenia and Armenians in the diaspora.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 28, 2013 21:15
You are only right Kev.,Soviet Armenia and Artsakh are oh,so independent in the sense that nothing depends on them.So,keep up your patriotism after choosing to live in America,and dont forget to pay your taxes regularely,so that Turkey and Israel get their fair share of it.Partsratsir,partsratsur-you will never outgrow your scout mentality!!!

by: Manumentsi from: Los Angeles
February 28, 2013 22:58
LOOL, u sad little Kurd, always trying to be like us. its not our ego that's big which no one understands, its our balls my friend, so big that it hurts my back. and unlike Kurds this isn't the first time we got our state back, we have done this many, many, many, many, many times......
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
March 01, 2013 08:54
Aaah,my dear LA patriot,we are all sure your elephant balls are the pride of all armenians,especially as you do your thinking with them.Unfortunately for you some people use other parts of the body to do that,but you seem to be lacking them>As for the kurds or anybody else `trying to be armenian` I will quote you an armenian author you have never heard of -Dikran Koyumdjian-`Now who is going to pretend to be an armenian if he is not?`
In Response

by: Manumentsi from: LA
March 02, 2013 13:58
I c u like Armenian literature, here is one u probably never heard of, "if the Kurds had has much brains as an Armenian in his single ball sack they wouldn't be where they are today"...Yerevantsi Hakop
In Response

by: Aryatsi
March 02, 2013 17:31
cameljew we know what you are. a joke. you are amusingly though keep up your writing. your kurdish culture is the leftover foam of the great Aryan cultures of the area. many in the area copy our culture but but a different name on it. your bottom dwelling nomadic people are no exception. youre right you are the slaves of israel and once you no longer serve their purpose their arab and turk mercenaries will put an end to you ridiculous kurdistan dream.

by: parvenu from: US
March 01, 2013 03:16
And who will believe in his good intentions?

by: from: Utik
March 02, 2013 05:05

In the times of deep budget cuts and looming fiscal cliff the US Embassy in Yerevan couldn't even provide their guy with some kind of color ribbons for his "crowds"!! Pomegranate or apricot colors could work...

It seems that they ended up shipping a box of leftover orange stuff from Kyyiv in a diplomatic pouch.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.