President Orders Structures in Mashdots Park Dismantled; Protesters Win

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My wife, baby and I just returned from Mashdots park where we learned that the controversial kiosks that were partially erected and were the source of contention for about two months now will apparently be dismantled. Earlier in the day President Serge Sarkisian went to the park with Yerevan Mayor Daron Markarian. After surveying the scene he ordered Markarian to have the structures torn down. This is a huge victory for civil society in Armenia. Kudos to all the protesters who day after day stood up for what they believed in and for the rights of all Armenian citizens.

But isn’t there more to it? The National Assembly elections are right around the corner and the President’s Republicans need all the legitimate votes that they can get. Plus it’s excellent PR for the president since the city is filled with elections observers and essentially the eyes of all democratic nations are on Armenia now. Not to mention that the standoff had become a huge embarrassment for the Armenian government. On April 29 seven people were detained by police after a melee ensued over some of the protesters’ desire to pitch a tent on the park, the highlights of which have been posted on YouTube by various sources. This decision also signals a rift between the president and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian who was adamant about leaving the structures there, promising that they would be removed in three years time, which of course means that they would have remained indefinitely. The refusal to back off also became a “matter of principle,” meaning the PM wasn’t about to let a bunch of kids tell him what to do. Regardless, had there been no protests the kiosks would have been operational and there would not have been any need for any official to demand that they be removed.

The victory of the Save Mashdots Park movement is yet further proof that if you persist long enough, you can change things in Armenia. The problem is that there are too many pessimists here in society setting a defeatist tone, and most don’t even attempt to change anything they disagree with thinking it is futile to lift a finger against the establishment.  The complaint that “you can’t do it” (or ches gara as some defiantly say here) is sounding more and more like a pathetic joke.

Now, what’s next on the agenda?

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2 thoughts on “President Orders Structures in Mashdots Park Dismantled; Protesters Win

  1. I am very happy to hear that the kiosks in Mashtots Park will (or is it may?) be demolished. However, the way in which this has been resolved should give pause, not be praised. Is Armenia a democracy, or is it an Sultanate? If there were truly a rule of law in Armenia, then it would not take an audience with a ruler to beg him to demolish these illegal structures. Why is this zoning issue the business of the country’s president, after all? If all decisions are put into the hands of one person, everyone living in Armenia is a subject of Serzh Sargsyan, not a citizen of a country.

    Those who have run afoul of those in charge can attest that not nearly all decisions are favorable or just. You can go ask, for example, Tigran Araqelyan, “detained” in jail since last August for a brush with the same police as the Mashtots Park protesters encountered, although he was simply a bystander telling someone with a dog what their rights were when those police were harassing that person.

    Armenia’s budding environmental and civic initiatives are long overdue, as is a belief that you can indeed change things. But as long as you allow incidents to be “resolved” but fiat rather than by rule of law, there is no real progress. There is simply expediency, useful to those in power for public relations and for maintaining that power. In effect, Sargsyan’s sudden high-profile appearance in Mashtots Park was one of the Republican Party’s biggest pre-election bribes. Enjoy Mashtots Park, but realize it is your own tractor, jam, or 5000 drams, unless you vote to make Armenia truly a democratic country, and not an Oriental emirate.

  2. We are all happy the booths “will” be removed but I disagree with the author that this was a victory! It was a disgusting display of abuse-of-power that occurred during a walk in the park by the president (King) and the mayor (Subject). The King usually makes his illegal RULINGS in private by mobile phone. Yesterday, he was HAPPY to RULE his fearful little Subject in public in front of cameras. POOF – he just waved his royal hand and said “They are not nice.” Sorry, Your Royal Highness, the citizens of a democracy will not be ruled like that. They WILL receive true Rule-Of-Law! Teghut is next and Rule-Of Law is coming to Armenia!

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