Vladmir Karapetyan (Armenia)
“In April hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of cities and towns of Armenia to peacefully protest against the authorities and the entrenched negative practices undermining justice and the rule of law. They claimed direct and vocal participation in public affairs. Most conspicuously, public protests in Armenia have demonstrated the strength of our civil society. They have demonstrated the evolution of the public of Armenia to a considerably high level of political maturity and legal literacy.”
One of the initial objectives of the citizen’s movement in Armenia, which started in April 2018, was to put pressure on the authorities to ensure basic freedoms. People felt that authorities had been doing everything to shrink civic space and repress freedoms – freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of information. The level of corruption in Armenia was excessive – there was no sphere within the economy, judiciary, or police force, that was free of corruption. Society did not have enough tools to expose all the illegal, corrupt actions of officials. This weakness allowed authorities to act with impunity. Leaders of the movement created a special focus on existing corruption and have now initiated a special campaign against corrupt officials. Because of consecutively rigged elections at all levels in Armenia, people believed that they were underrepresented in all state bodies – parliament included. According to the Constitution, the power belongs to people. That is why people took to the streets in April-May, 2018 – to restore the provisions of the first article of the Constitution. On September 23, local elections were held in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, which will test the new government’s ability to hold free and fair elections, allowing people to elect leaders.
Social networks made it possible to inform and involve an unprecedented number of people in the movement. Parties and NGOs also played important roles in forming public opinion for the movement. Seeing the ineffectiveness of the work of state institutions, like parliament, government, and social institutions, people demanded changes through direct representation. Participation in protests or demonstrations should be peaceful. All requirements by law on assembly should be strictly met by participants of the protests, otherwise authorities can use any violation of laws by protesters as an excuse to use all kinds of punishing measures. All sources for dissemination of public information should be used: social media, the distribution of leaflets, other materials, and possible appearances on media programs. People should be given detailed information and explanation the movement and its goals. Marches in the streets of the cities and meetings with ordinary people are necessary activities for those involved in democratic movements.
“Following the peaceful mass rallies and equally peaceful transition of power, a new Government was voted in. Over the past four months, empowered with the overwhelming support and mandate of the people, the Government embarked on the implementation of the reform agenda aimed at anchoring resilient democratic institutions, the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms, strong and independent judiciary, the rule of law, resolutely fighting corruption and promoting equal and fair conditions for all in economic and social life. Taking into consideration expectation of our citizens, their support of the Government program currently we do not foresee any significant protest action in coming months.”
Vladimir Karapetyan is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Armenian National Congress party. Prior to this position, he was a diplomat in Foreign Ministry of Armenia, serving as Spokesperson and Head of Department in the Ministry. Additionally, he worked in Armenian Embassies in Kiev and Tbilisi, as Deputy Head of Mission.