First a link roundup, then discussion about what’s going on.
- The Atlantic has a good overview for those joining us late.
- Here is a phenomenal photo collection of the first rally in Freedom Square. It’s actually really interesting how it seems like a majority of the participants are older. The young certainly are present as well, but they are not the majority. When I asked a local friend of mine what why that was the case she said that many of her friends were told before the election that if they voted for Raffi, they’d be fired. They still voted for Raffi, trusting in the secrecy of the vote, but cannot show their support publically. Apparently those in some position of power where Raffi won are facing similar pressure.
- One Heritage representative says the best deal possible would be for Heritage to join a new coalition government. So far it seems like Raffi is rejecting any offers to join with the government.
- The city government of Yerevan said that rallies after the 22nd would be illegal as the local government has refused to authorize rallies between the 23rd and 25th. The logic is that they require a week notice, which is obviously impossible for these post-election rallies and could not have been given for the previous rallies. Hovannisian responded by holding very successful rallies in Gyumri and Vanadzor and in unplanned Aparan.
- Hovannisian also held an unauthorized rally today in Yerevan, with an estimated 4,000 supporters. Thankfully Hovannis ian kept it short and the police did not interfere too much. The police made an official statement about the illegality of the rally, including cutting off the electricity to the speakers. They then returned power and Hovannisian was able to finish his speech. For the record, if the police did forcibly disperse the crowd, the government would likely be found in violation of the right to freedom of assemblies by the European Court of Human Rights, but this view is debatable. The fact that the rally was unathortized doesn’t make it ipso facto illegal.
- Protests also occurred in New York and LA.
- The Ombudsman’s Office issued a press release (in Armenian) about the few hundred calls they received on the election. One of main issues people reported was bribes.
- An anti-OSCE protest occurred on the 22nd. The protestors were angry over OSCE’s glossing over of election fraud and thus implicitly legitimizing the authorities.
- A report I missed from earlier, Yerevan Press Club said that the media was neutral in its coverage of the campaigns. Unfortunately, that same media has chosen to ignore a number of the significant protestor events, creating an information vacuum for the public.
Overall, Raffi has been promoting peaceful resistance and activism. He’s asking students to walk out of class tomorrow at 11am to join in yet another rally. So far this strategy may have been the reason that the government hasn’t done much to limit his activity. Unlike Levon Ter-Petrossian’s fiery anti-government speeches in 2008, Raffi is not calling for violence. (For another comparison of now to 2008, here is a nice blog post.) The government is allegedly still trying to impede his actions (e.g. they closed the road to Yerevan from Gyumri today, allegedly to limit people from joining the protest), but any overt action on their end would lack even the preface of legitimacy like they had in 2008. While Andreas Ghoukasyan has called for civil disobedience, Hovannisian continues to reiterate that this was a win for the freedom of the people of Armenia and to remain peaceful. How Hovannisian wants to push for that freedom still remains to be seen.