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Armenia: Opposition Detainees Released

Via Romamerda1 on YouTube, there are updates on the latest developments following the arrest of Armenian opposition leaders, Nikol Pashinyan and other members of the “Impeachment” bloc. The description accompanying the video reads:

Nicol Pashinyan and other members of “Impeachment” party were unjustly imprisoned for 8 hours on 23 October in Yerevan. After the meeting with the 1st president Ter-Petrosyan, police finally freeds them at 3:20am. A large group of people was chanting “Battle,battle until the end” and applausing president Levon Ter-Petrosyans and others.

I find it very significant to note that the police freed the prisoners after meeting with the first president, Levon Ter Petrosian (or LTP as most bloggers call him), who is currently the considered to be the most likely opposition candidate to be able to stand a chance in the presidential election early next year.

The Armenia 2008 Election Monitor blog covered the story at length yesterday:

RFE/RL reports that “at least a dozen” opposition activists supportive of former president Levon Ter Petrosian have been detained. Their crime? In lieu of having access to the broadcast media to advertise Friday’s rally at which Ter Petrosian is due to speak, the activists used megaphones to announce the meeting on the streets of the Armenian capital, Yerevan. One of those detained is believed to be the outspoken editor of the pro-Ter Petrosian Haykakan Zhamank newspaper, Nikol Pashinian.

[…]

Given that the capital is full of people setting up loudspeakers at kiosks or even simple tables selling CDs on street corners even though they deafen passer-bys and local residents, as well as the dozens of entertainment complexes opened by corrupt officials and their relatives in public parks, the action does not appear at first glance to warrant such a response. It is unknown so far whether the activists obstructed traffic or otherwise “disturbed the peace.”

At any rate, with Friday’s rally looming ever closer, tensions seem to be rising. In part this is because however unpopular Ter Petrosian might have been, he is seen as the lesser of two evils by a significant number of people when quizzed about their voting preference for next year’s presidential election. Quite simply, they say, anyone is better than Serzh Sarkisian.

No wonder then, that the authorities and the ruling Republican party of the prime minister, presidential hopeful Serzh Sarkisian, are taking Friday’s rally very seriously indeed. Some would argue that they’re reacting in a manner that does not befit any country supposedly on the path towards democratization.

Mark Grigoryan [RUS] says the opposition has great hopes on the rally scheduled for October 26th, which is likely to mark the start of Ter-Petrossian's presidential campaign. The blogger notes that although the Yerevan authorities haven't prohibited the rally, the Republican party is organizing a free concert to coincide with it, and says that there preparations by police are already underway.

“Are they really so scared of them [the opposition]?” he asks with surprise to conclude his analysis of the situation.

Other reports of the story can be found on Bekaisa [RUS], Armenianewsblog [RUS], Armenian Breaking News, Narjan [RUS], and in a really interesting eyewitness account by David_Sand [RUS] with a second post detailing his opinion on the latest developments:

Honestly speaking, it is hard to imagine better PR for an oppositionist than his arrest not long before a scheduled rally. I can't find an explanation to the arrest of the editors of “Armenian Times” and the “Forth Power”. This might be a result of police stupidity or carefully prepared PR. At any rate, this is how it all looked:

- Police arrest editors of opposition newspapers who were making public calling in the street for citizens to attend Friday's opposition rally,

- Opposition supporters gather at the police department (and by the way, representatives of the parliamentary opposition minority were also there) together with human right defenders, journalists and inhabitants of houses close to the police department,

- Levon Ter-Petrosian arrives, and everybody starts shouting “Levon, Levon” as if the savior has come with the key to all the problems faced by the opposition,

- After a couple of hours, the detainees are released, which in the eyes of the public raises the authority of Ter-Petrosian.

The blogger also notes that TV has ceased to serve as a source of information because from his observations, there was no coverage of the events in TV news reports. However, I can state that there was pretty good coverage on Yerkir Media TV, but that is the exception, proving the point made by David_Sand.

One of my most favorite of bloggers, Pigh [RUS], is as outraged by Ter Petrosian as ever:

Everything, everything, everything is done to make sure they have something to talk about at the rally. Perhaps tomorrow they’ll get somebody's head smashed so that there is a fresh topic to discuss…

[…]

There is the impression that Levon has lots of support among the oligarchs although, if you look at it soberly, why not? Grzo, Lfik, and Tsarukyan were all created by Vanik Smbatovich… (former Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Siradeghian during LTP's rule in the 90s).

Interestingly, Pigh connects the recent increase in the price of sugar, which added to considerable public discontent with the current authorities, with LTP and the desire of those oligarchs supportive of the ex-president's return to help him by sudden price rises on the eve of the presidential election.

3 comments

  • RFE/RL’s Press Review quotes a pro-HHSh newspaper has having another “theory” about price rises. No evidence to back it up, but it sounds more probable than Pigh’s.

    In a separate story, “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” claims that the latest surge in prices of key food prices was orchestrated by the Armenian government. “The calculation is very simple: Serzh Sarkisian is going to need money in the elections, lost of money,” says the paper. “But price hikes one month before the elections will not be looked upon kindly. That is why it was decided to start the plunder now and make some things a little cheaper one month before the elections.”

  • Detainees Released — Video…

    After their detention yesterday for announcing Friday’s opposition rally by megaphone and handing out leaflets in the city center, A1 Plus reports that supporters of the former first president, Levon Ter Petrosian, were released in the early hour…

  • […] The Armenian Observer wrote a post for Global Voices Online on the arrest and detention of Ter Petrosian’s supporter… last week. It is also interesting to note the black eye Pashinian seems to have recently sustained […]

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