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What now after a week of protests in Armenia?

People shout and raise their hands as they face police forces during an opposition rally in central Yerevan on April 16, 2018
People shout and raise their hands as they face police forces during an opposition rally in central Yerevan on April 16, 2018 KAREN MINASYAN / AFP

Dozens of protesters have been arrested in the Armenian capital Yerevan after trying to break through a police line, protecting the entrance to government headquarters on the seventh day of anti-government protests.


Demonstrators took to the streets a week ago in anticipation of the election of former-president Serzh Sarkisian to the position of prime minister on Tuesday.

He amended the constitution in 2015 making Armenia a parliamentary system - leaving the president with a largely ceremonial role.

Protesters say it is a cynical move to remain in office after serving his two presidential terms.

The leader of the protests, opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan, is calling for nothing less than a 'peaceful velvet revolution'.

"Pashinyan has been calling for change for many years," says Armine Ishkanian, an associate professor in the department of social policy at the London School of Economics.

"Not everyone who is out in the streets necessarily supports him, but I think everyone who is protesting is sick of the regime and tired of the status quo."

Pashinyan is urging protesters to continue their campaign of civil-disobedience. After seven days of demonstrations and dozens of arrests he has called on police to stop protecting government buildings.

Fighting the fear

Observers say the biggest problem with the protests, is that they have no clear goals.

"And that's the problem," says Juliana Melkumyan, associate professor of sociology at Yerevan State University. "When you protest against something you have to have alternatives."

Armine Ishkanian agrees: "The people who are leading the movement need to have a plan for day three.

"We saw this in Tahrir Square, we've seen this in lots of places where you can push in the square for revolutionary change but that doesn't mean you have a plan for action."

As the protests spread to Gyumri and Vanadzor, the second and third largest cities not everybody believes that the protestors need a clear-cut objective.

"They have an agenda for the future," says Vartan Kaprielian, director of AYP FM, a Paris-based Armenian language radio station.

"They are preparing new generations for the change. They are creating the environment for the necessary change in mentalities. They are fighting the fear that exists in many former Soviet states."

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