In which forms are carefully observed

Via Unzipped — who is rapidly emerging as the go-to blog for stuff about the current situation here in Armenia — I see that four opposition Members of Parliament are being stripped of their immunity so that they can be prosecuted. For, you know, supporting that coup attempt. You know. The coup attempt.

There are all sorts of funky wrinkles to the situation. Like the border incident with Azerbaijan yesterday. The Azeris trying to probe for weakness at a time of crisis? Or the Armenian government trying to distract people with a foreign enemy? Who knows? — Or the luxury store downtown owned by a prominent local oligarch, friendly to the government, that was looted during the (brief) rioting. Attacked because he was a friend of the government? Or is it true that all his staff evacuated hours before, leaving the store a provocatively tempting target? And the crackdown: was it done by President Kocharian just to crush the opposition, or was it more of a poisoned gift to his successor-elect? Once you start thinking in terms of agents provocateurs and double motives, suddenly it’s all a hall of mirrors.

Anyway. Yerevan is about 95% back to normal. Some armed soldiers hanging around at major intersections, and that’s about it. Shops are open, streets are busy. Some newspapers have disappeared from the stands — the state of emergency has shut down opposition papers — but you have to look twice to spot it. I’d like to say there’s a strange underlying vibe but maybe I’m just not sensitive enough. Of course, if you talk to people individually… well, even people who supported the government are pretty rattled.

It’s hard to say where this is going, but I’m still inclined to bet “status quo”.

2 thoughts on “In which forms are carefully observed

  1. Sorry, but I think that the argument that staff left a shop in order to make it a target for looting is really a ridiculous argument. And this is the problem here. Everybody is spreading false information, gossip and paranoid conspiracy theories about clashes which we all knew would happen because of two simple facts.

    Firstly. Ter-Petrossian proclaimed himself the winner of the election even BEFORE the official pre-election campaign began. As did the ruling Republican party headed by the prime minister, Serge Sargsyan. In reality, neither are democrats and neither had any intention other than coming to power by any means at their disposal.

    For Sargsyan, this meant administrative resources and the state apparatus. For Ter-Petrossian, this meant street protests which became more hateful thanks to his rhetoric of confrontation with each passing day. We all knew this would happen, and both sides were to blame. Neither shows any sign of being able to compromise, and neither have any right to talk of democracy, human rights, or the rule of law.

    Instead, it is a battle about power and the redistribution of wealth and property between those formerly in power and those currently in control of the country. The people are just pawns to be used for their own personal and political ambitions and its unlikely that either gives a damn about those who died on Saturday.

    Interestingly, I met up with two prominent foreign journalists on Monday night who had been to Ter-Petrossian’s house the day before for a press conference. When we met they asked me, “Do you know what he spoke about for the first hour?”

    They said you would have thought it would be about the tragic loss of lives, the unrest on the streets, the arrest of his supporters, and all of the rest of it. But no, Ter-Petrossian spent the first hour showing them the books he had written and the diplomas and awards he had received from various foreign universities.

    Only then did he start to mention the events the night before. Even so, he refused to answer specific questions and told journalists even from respected international media outlets their questions were stupid and he wouldn’t respond. Of course, the authorities are no better with Artur Baghdasarian being a pain in the arse during his meeting with the press on Monday.

    However, this battle is not about democracy, human rights or anything else. It is about one minority (Ter-Petrossian’s) and another (Sargsyan’s) fighting the other with the majority wondering why they were being given the choice of choosing between the “lesser of two evils.”

    Ter-Petrossian’s only chance of coming to power was through “revolution,” and Sargsyan’s only guaranteed chance was through inflating the vote on election day. That is why we’re in the situation. The language of hate and confrontation, especially from Ter-Petrossian, made it inevitable.

    And I personally consider that all those in civil society, media and government who took either side in this battle for personal power and wealth is to blame and has blood on their hands.

  2. I hold no brief for Ter-Petrosian. His language has indeed been extreme, and his unwillingness to compromise is making a bad situation worse. He was a stubborn, arrogant SOB ten years ago, and the years have not mellowed him. (In fact, my impression is that he’s worse today than when he was in power.)

    On the other hand, however strong his language, Levon hasn’t called for the overthrow of the government by force. The government claims that he was planning a coup or a revolution from the streets; I’m not seeing that. My impression is that he wanted an “Orange Revolution” type of scenario, where the will of the people would push him over the top without bloodshed. Probably this was stupid and reckless, and perhaps he doesn’t care much about the dead, but I don’t think he planned or wanted for the violence to happen.

    LTP is an asshole, but at the end of the day the protests were non-violent. Blame accrues to both sides, but it was the government that started shooting.

    Doug M.

Comments are closed.