New Wave of Nonstop Anti-Government Demonstrations Begin in Armenia

The referendum campaign to make constitutional changes in Armenia is coming to a head.

Opposition parties, who have called to their supporters to reject the project suggested by the president and his ruling party, have already held a number of rallies in Yerevan and across Armenia.

The supporters of the “New Armenia” political movement, which unites a number of organizations who oppose the current government and the change of the constitution of Armenia announced that they are starting a range of non-stop demonstrations in Yerevan’s central Freedom Square after a crowded rally and a march.

The organizers have called to their supporters to stay in the square and to not leave until the day of the constitutional referendum on December 6th.

Some of the roads leading into Yerevan were closed from the early morning on December 1st in order to avoid a bigger demonstration and escalation. The public transportation coming to Yerevan from other regions were stopped as well, with some of the drivers saying they were told not to take people into Yerevan.

Another opposition alliance, the United Headquarters of “NO” which unites the biggest opposition party in the Armenia parliament, the Armenian National Congress party (ANC) and the Peoples party of Armenia, have called to their supporters to gather at the same square on December 3rd “to demonstrate their force before the referendum”.

Both of the camps are conducting different strategies and tactics in order to oppose the changes in the constitution but as the representatives of both camps have said, they are not opposing each other but fulfilling each other and becoming closer on key issues.

The opponents of the change of the constitution insist that the change, which the government claim is aimed to transform Armenia from a semi-presidential system into a parliamentary system, in reality is aimed to guarantee the powers of the current president who, according to the current constitution can’t run for a another presidential term because of a constitutional ban.

According to the opposition, the proposed changes are risking the establishment of a mono-party system in Armenia. A number of lawyers and experts agree with them.

According to the latest polls conducted by the Advanced Public Research Group (APR Group) 77% of respondents are not satisfied with the activities of Parliament and 63.7% do not trust the process of constitutional change. The number of people in the opposition is especially large in bigger cities and the capital.

Meanwhile the First President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosian (1991-98), the leader of the main opposition party ANC has released an article days before the referendum criticizing the plans to change the constitution and has called to the current President, Serzh Sargsyan, to suspend the referendum arranged by the geopolitical developments in the region, or if suspending is not possible anymore, to not falsify the results in order to avoid instability and new tensions in the country.

Ter-Petrosian mentioned that Armenia is facing a number of challenges at the moment and to overcome them the country needs consolidation, if the results are falsified or if brutal force is used to sway the vote it will only bring disunity, which could lead to increased tensions and emigration.

The ex-president has mentioned that the current state of the constitutional referendum is a sign of irresponsibility and a dangerous adventure.

Karen Tovmasyan

02 December 2015 14:16