Armenia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ Prompts Comparisons With Ukraine, Georgia

Armenia’s acting prime minister has said the country will hold new elections if all parties agree to it, prompting celebrations Wednesday on the streets of the capital, Yerevan.

Protests have been building for the last two weeks over an alleged power grab by former prime minister Serzh Sargsyan, who resigned Monday.

His acting replacement, the former deputy prime minister, Karen Karapetyan, said Wednesday all parties should negotiate new elections.

“If they decide that there is a necessity for a snap election, if they set a timeline so that they have enough time to prepare so that everyone is under the same game rules — if they decide so, we will move forward based on that,” Karapetyan told reporters.

Opponents had accused Sargsyan of clinging to power by manipulating the constitution, allowing him to move from the position of president to prime minister.

On the surface, the show of people power in this former Soviet state has striking similarities to the ouster of pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2014, or Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia in 2003. There are differences, however, argues Moscow-based political analyst Karine Gevorgyan.

“In Armenia, in particular, this situation is not linked with being oriented either to the West or to the East, like it was in Ukraine, but with being tired of inefficient, counterproductive power in government,” Gevorgyan told VOA in an interview.

No Moscow puppet

Anahit Shirinyan of the policy institute Chatham House agrees and says Sargsyan was not Moscow’s puppet.

“He was also very much acceptable for the West up until recently because he was thought to have tried to diversify Armenia’s foreign policy. He made this rather bold move toward Turkey back in 2008, with this rapprochement with Turkey, he tried to sign the Association Agreement, a cooperation treaty, with the EU back in 2013,” said Shirinyan.

Under pressure from Moscow, that EU Association Agreement failed and Armenia instead joined the Russia-focused Eurasian Economic Union. But Moscow has failed to build influence in Armenia, argues analyst Gevorgyan.

“I think it has happened because Russia itself has abandoned this political space in Armenia. Meanwhile, other countries, including the United States, as well as other Western countries, acted quite diligently and subtly to fill that space,” said Gevorgyan.

Now Armenia finds itself at a geopolitical crossroads, adds Shirinyan of Chatham House.

“It has an opportunity to get closer to the West, to the EU, because I think that particularly the EU’s support will be crucial in the next stage of reforming the country,” said Shirinyan.

Russia has offered little official response. Moscow has a military base in the country, along with historic and economic ties. Analysts say the strength of the protests likely will prompt a cautious response from all sides.

 

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