Blood in the water and the End of the Barevolution

It’s been almost a week since the Inaugurations and protests of April 9—and my last blog post, apologies. The short of it is that, if the lack of tweets is any indication, the barevolution is next to dead as a movement.

After the significant criticism Raffi got from his own camp regarding the events of the 9th, he gave a long response on facebook. The core of his defense is that he wouldn’t engage in actions that could lead to bloodshed, and that he was forced to be “flexible” because of the people. The first argument is defensible while the latter is not. In any coalition, you’ll always have differing views; the point of the leader is to select a path that the people support and can follow. Otherwise, the coalition starts to break down at the critical moment. The brutal weather did make it hard to communicate his plan, but there is no reason he couldn’t have communicated his steps earlier. Overall, Raffi was stuck between a rock and hard place, but the people expect a leader to be able to navigate choppy waters.

CivilNet has a video that summarizes the rally of the 12th. Armen Martirosyan, Yerevan mayoral candidate and arrestee on the 9th, has a nice quote:

“[A] leader is not hiding behind black walls … but standing in front of the people with his  family … leading the way. A leader like him might make mistakes, he might fall back for a second, but a leader like him never falls down. A leader like him always stands tall and leads us to victory.”

Unfortunately, Raffi didn’t provide any concrete plan to lead the people in the upcoming weeks and months and primarily echoed previous statements. He told people to come next week to another rally, the norm at his events.

Without any stated plan, Raffi’s coalition is breaking apart. The youth activist crowd is willing to fight “leaderless.” Pre-Parliament is starting to organize its own rallies. ARF-D backpedals from its support of the movement. The ANC criticizes Raffi’s actions and handling of the day and dismisses all of his rallies as “never pos[ing] a serious threat” (to the Republican’s delight). Everyone can sense the blood in the water, and there are plenty of sharks in the opposition that would love to knock Raffi down a notch or two for their own personal benefit. With ANC’s recent reorganization, they have a good chance to steal the momentum away from Raffi/Heritage/Barev Yerevan.

One group that deserves special mention in regards to the events of the 9th is the police and how surprisingly well they acted. There are activists that criticize the police for what they did. Just looking at some of the videos from the day demonstrates the aggression the police showed, at the height of the conflict. Just a short time after the conflict, the Armenian Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparyan walked with Raffi to the Genocide Memorial and even went as far as praising Raffi and calling him a “peaceful person.” Maybe it’s because of that praise that the authorities were openly annoyed at the “leniency” the police showed the protestors. The Ombudsman Karen Andreasyan did ask for explanation from the police for their actions, but the explanation the police gave is actually fairly reasonable, for a police department and especially for a post-soviet police department. [Updated:] The Ombudsman points out concerns but seems generally supportive of the police’s actions.

Of course, it’s easy to be upstanding when you have plain-clothes cops ready to rough people up, as this CivilNet video alleges. The video is heavily edited but appears to show aggressive members in the crowd shoving protestors with impunity, while the cops do nothing. When called out about it, Yerevan’s police chief says in the video that they would never have cops in civilian clothes and to bring a written complaint to his desk the next morning. Unfortunately for him, Gasparyan decided that he needs a fall guy and dismissed  Yerevan’s chief of police yesterday evening.

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4 Comments

Filed under Elections

4 responses to “Blood in the water and the End of the Barevolution

  1. Thank you for the news, Gabe. I did not know the news that the police chief was fired.

    One point I keep asking is “what else could Raffi DO!?” He did everything anyone could do! I believe his plan was to see 100,000 or 500,000 people JAM the streets to see if people power could force real change. He could not do it with 8,000. Also, I know many people were watching the rallies, protests and march on live internet rather than in the street! That’s a negative effect of the internet on barevolution – the APPEARANCE of small participation. Anyway, I believe the opposition will win the Mayorship -EASILY.

    • Gabe Armas-Cardona

      What else could Raffi do is a very legit question. I know that I would not have acted any better than him in the situation, but then I didn’t run for the presidency.

      The thing is that people were already saying the crowds were too small for a revolution months ago (see: https://twitter.com/onewmphoto/status/307121285954162689), so Raffi should have known that building massive crowds alone wouldn’t be enough. Raffi needed to build an institution to keep the momentum alive. Barev Foundation is a great step, but it’s too little too late.

      As for the mayorship, we’ll see. If the opposition united, there is no doubt they’ll win. But, with all four parties battling each other (and with ANC’s particularly vicious attacks against Barevolution), it’s looking like they might snatch defeat from the claws of victory.

  2. Pingback: Clarification: the need for Armenian Activism | Human Rights Work in Yerevan

  3. Pingback: Armènia: astènia primaveral | Cercle Gerrymandering

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