The People’s Inauguration

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This afternoon, despite what many were anticipating, Raffi Hovanissian did not give his oath to the presidency before the Armenian public. Instead, he recited a pledge that the crowd of Barevolution supporters, copies of the constitution in hand, repeated, verse by verse. The rhetoric of his speech was the same–power to the people, the country belongs to the people, the people will all be victorious, the corrupt, dishonest leaders of Armenia will answer to the people in Liberty Square, yadda yadda yadda.

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By my estimates–although I am not good with accessing crowds–there were likely about 8,000 people in attendance, maybe more. Although the event was due to start at 11:00 am, it didn’t actually get under way until after noontime when the square filled out since Armenians are always fashionably late, even for a revolution.

The youth movement put on a great display when they walked into the square, carrying orange banners and chanting, ready for the next move. Everyone was ready.

But Raffi evidently thought otherwise. In order for a peaceful regime change to take form, you simply need an extraordinary turnout of people. Although this crowd was the largest I have seen at any of Raffi’s events thus far, the numbers were still not high enough to force out the authorities. Had there been 100,000 people assembled, perhaps they would have blinked or been prepared to make serious concessions (or else resigned). Raffi has been dead set against violence, although revolutions rarely happen without it in the world. So it has to come with numbers. Yet so long as you have countless Armenian citizens who continue thinking, “whether I go down there or not nothing’s changing,” nothing of course actually will change. At 1:30 he sent everyone on a 4.5 hour lunch break, I presume to see whether he can gather an even larger crowd at the end of the work day. He failed to take into consideration that he lost a thousand or two in the process.

Raffi can and should continue to empower people, it’s clear that he has undying faith in the movement. But if this public continues with the mindset that nothing can ever change, no matter who’s in charge, then this Barevolution is simply doomed to failure. And it certainly won’t be Raffi’s fault.

The crowd is expected to assemble in Liberty Square at 6:00 pm. A march is also planned for the evening through the city center, but I don’t see what purpose it would serve–unless he decices to lead everyone to the National Assembly or Presidential Palace. That seems like a longshot.
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Photos by Christian Garbis