Unlike post-Soviet revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, and elsewhere, the current protests in Armenia have not alarmed the Kremlin, even though they look set to bring greater democracy. That is likely due to the lack of geopolitical stakes involved.
Moscow—It looks like the typical “color revolution.”
Pro-democracy crowds take to the streets in the capital of some post-Soviet republic to peacefully protest the political manipulations of their Moscow-friendly ruling elite and demand sweeping reforms to the corrupt, oligarchic economic system they've grown to despise.
That's what's happening right now in Armenia. For over two weeks, huge, mostly youthful crowds have been holding rolling demonstrations in the center of Yerevan and other Armenian cities, reacting to an attempt by two-term President Serzh Sargsyan to extend his grip on power. Most previous “color revolutions” in the former Soviet Union have been similarly triggered by fraudulent elections or other duplicitous abuses of power.
But unlike those previous cases, the massive popular upsurge in Armenia went almost unnoticed in Western capitals for 10 days, until Mr. Sargsyan suddenly bowed to the street and stepped aside last Monday. Moreover, Russia, which is home to more than 2 million Armenians and has been obsessed with the supposedly dire threat of “color revolutions” for years, was more alert but surprisingly calm.
Things are still up in the air on the streets of Yerevan, and the tense drama may well end up striking a major blow for democracy and the power of civil society. But there are few, if any, geopolitical stakes in Armenia. While the government might become more democratic, Armenia's reliance on Russia for trade and security will not change. And that is the main reason for the almost disinterested shrugs on all sides.He's demanding a bit more than that:
“We may await wide-scale changes in domestic policies. New people may come to the top, with a whole new attitude,” says Alexander Iskandaryan, director of the independent Caucasus Institute in Yerevan. “But this revolution has an entirely internal genesis. Foreign policy isn't even a subject for discussion.”
'Russia will not intervene'
The tiny, landlocked republic of Armenia is a traditional Russian ally, a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and military Collective Security Treaty Organization, and wedged between its long-standing enemies Turkey and Azerbaijan. So, it depends heavily on Russia for its national security.
Though chronically poor by Western standards, over half of Armenians have post-secondary education. Large numbers go abroad for permanent or temporary employment. There are huge Armenian diasporas in Russia, North America, and Europe, and contacts are intense. The country of around 3 million people has enjoyed about 7 percent annual growth in recent years, but its GDP of around 11 billion is modest and heavily dependent on around $500 million in annual remittances from Armenians working abroad, mostly in Russia.
The recent street revolt came in response to Sargsyan's attempt to “pull a Putin” by changing the constitution to vest the lion's share of authority in the parliament, then getting his ruling Republican party to name him prime minister. Though his party did appoint him prime minister, he only lasted six days before resigning under popular pressure.
The largely spontaneous eruption ended up with Nikol Pashinyan, whose Civil Contract party holds just 8 percent of the seats in the parliament, as its leading symbol and most likely beneficiary. He is demanding that the parliament choose a “people's candidate” who is not from the ruling Republican Party when it meets to decide on a new prime minister on May 1. Beyond that, he demands new elections and sweeping political reforms.....MORE
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