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?