YEREVAN, May 17 (The Conway Bulletin) — Newly inaugurated Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan told his backers to quit their protests and to go home after weeks of peaceful demonstrations forced the government of Serzh Sargsyan to resign in what has now been dubbed the Velvet Revolution.
Mr Pashinyan appears concerned that the street-level politics that paralysed the country and thrust him to power, would continue to disrupt Armenia. Looking for a new target protesters have challenged the legitimacy of the mayor of Yerevan, Taron Markarian, who they accuse of corruption.
The danger for Mr Pashinyan, who now has to get Armenia back up and running, is that the Velvet Revolution has unlocked general discontent that will rumble on. Analysts have said that the protests were decentralised and are therefore hard to control.
“When we closed roads (during the protests) we did so because there was no government in Armenia that enjoyed the people’s trust. Today there is a government that enjoys the people’s trust,” Mr Pashinyan said in a video.
Protesters have tried to storm the mayor’s office in Yerevan and also called for the release of 10 men charged with capturing a police station for 10 days in 2016. Two policemen died in the stand-off.
And as well as trying to reassure nervous Armenians who are looking for leadership, Mr Pashinyan has had to reassure the country’s main foreign allies that he is serious about maintaining various relationships.
With this in mind, Mr Pashinyan made his first overseas trip as Armenia’s PM to Sochi, Russia, for a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Its members are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. His main effort was to allay any fears that Armenia was going to lurch towards Europe.
“There is a strategic relationship of allies between Armenia and Russia,” Mr Pashinyan was quoted as saying at a photo op with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I can assure you that in Armenia there is a consensus and nobody has ever doubted the importance of the strategic nature of Armenian-Russian relations.”
>>This story was first published in issue 372 of The Conway Bulletin newspaper