Thousands rally in Yerevan to mark the anniversary of 1 March 08Reuters: At least 10 000 anti-government protesters in Armenia on Sunday demanded early elections. (photo - Nazik Armenakian / Reuters) Other estimates - 10 000 to 20 000, or more.
One year ago, these days… Brutal force crushed hopes of many in Armenia who wanted changes in their country. It was a movement comprised of people of varying political/social views/backgrounds who were sick of the current state of affairs in Armenia.
Regardless of my critical opinion of some in the movement, I did support it, as I believed this was the only right choice for me considering the circumstances and alternatives. One year on, I have no regrets for my choice. I could not have done otherwise. There were simply no other channels for people to exercise their rights and hopes for democracy and human rights to arrive in Armenia.
For me, the matter of ultimate responsibility for 1 March tragedy is apparent. I do not need court cases or commissions for that. It’s Armenian authorities who bear the ultimate responsibility for all good and bad happenings in the country. It’s them who issued the orders…
Today, remembering events of 1 March 08, I’d like to express my sincere condolences to families and friends of those killed.
Despite unprecedented tragic consequences, restrictions of civil liberties, political prisoners, the movement had resulted in some important positive developments. It was an awakening for the society in hibernation for more than a decade. Number of genuine, albeit small, civil groups and initiatives were developed, particularly among youth, aimed at democratisation of our society.
For me, one of the main positive outcomes of the movement was the fact that Armenian government, authorities, started paying more attention to public opinion. To the various degree, of course, but they can no longer completely ignore it. Like they used to do pre-movement…
Still, one of the ultimate aims of the movement – free elections, key feature of democracy, seems something of a dream than a reality any time soon. Initial signs of the upcoming Yerevan mayoral (municipality) elections do not look particularly promising.
It is not surprising, therefore, that key slogans of thousands protesters who defied the ban by the authorities to mark the 1st anniversary of 1 March 08 in Yerevan were: "Free Political Prisoners", "For Early Elections", “Punish 1 March Perpetrators”, and… “No To Tax Terror”.
Previously announced opposition hiatus was partly ‘justified’ by the Karabakh conflict. The point was that Karabakh deal is imminent, and 'we do not want damaging our country’s interests and make it even more vulnerable to external pressures'. The ‘hope’ was that the authorities would sign up to the unfavourable settlement plan which would stir popular anger and... All ‘hopes’ now on socioeconomic/financial crisis, as was evident from the opposition leader, Armenia’s first president Ter-Petrosyan speech, which was remarkable by a change in rhetoric, a kind of U-turn.
There is nothing wrong with the opposition using current problems to their advantage. It may not seem ethical, but it is within the rules of game. Any opposition party would do so, whether in Armenia or abroad.
However, there is a feeling among some opposition supporters (past or present) that its leaders are lacking a clear vision on ways forward.
One more remark. While (from the opposition side) there was no ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ divide in relation to those killed, police chief of Armenia was speaking the other day of “we also had 2 dead”, as if you could divide those who were killed on 1 March into ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’.