22 May, Tuesday

“Sargsyan's resignation is not sufficient either if real change is going to happen” - Amanda Paul - EXCLUSIVE


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Thousands of anti-government protesters have rallied defiantly in the Armenian capital Yerevan against Serzh Sargsyan, after parliament made him prime minister this month following a stint of 10 years as president. There have been days of protests, with participation of more than 100.000 people on the streets, who demanded his exit. On April 23, Serzh Sargsyan stepped down after 11 days of protests. 
In her interview for Eurasia Diary, Senior Policy Analyst focused on South Caucasus at the European Policy Center (EPC) based in Brussels, Amanda Paul, talks about the reasons of such a huge scale demonstration, which are taking place in Armenia and about what made Sargsyan to resign.
Amanda Paul
Senior Policy Analyst focused on South Caucasus at the European Policy Center (EPC)
“Through these protests Armenians said enough is enough. Armenians were fed up with the shenanigans and skullduggery of Sargsyan and his allies. They refused to accept the underhanded way that the political system was changed to allow Sargsyan to stay in power by moving from the Presidency to the Prime Minister’s post”, Amanda Paul said. 
She highlighted the fact that while this was the development that broke the camel’s back it is certainly not the first time that Armenian’s have protested over the last few years to signal their anger with their leadership, as for example during the Electric Yerevan protests in 2015. However the numbers of people that took to the streets this time, almost 200.000 in Yerevan, was unprecedented. 
“People are fed up with corruption, economic hardship, autocratic practices, undemocratic governance, social inequality, etc and want a better life. Society has become more active, particularly the younger generation who want real change, not just cosmetic reforms. Civil society has also become much stronger. Armenians have demonstrated that they are ready to standup to the authorities, demand change, and not go home until Sargsyan stepped down, no matter what. His resignation is not sufficient either if real change is going to happen.  There is a demand for new parliamentary elections which should be a next step”, Amanda Paul added.
Talking about the reaction of the international community on the protests in Armenia, Amanda Paul said that they stated for dialogue and asked for restraint; however, in the end Sargsyan saw sense and resigned rather than resorting to heavy handed tactics and the use of force which has happened in the past. 
“Taking such a step would have seriously risked relations with the West, in particular the EU with which Armenia has just signed a new agreement. This agreement is important for Yerevan”, she said.
“Clearly a key moment was the decision by some of the Armenian military peacekeepers based in Yerevan to stand shoulder to shoulder with the protestors. This would have undermined the confidence of the authorities and their ability to control the situation”, she concluded. 
Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Paul suggested that it seems unlikely that these circumstances will lead to any changes in the process over the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. She said that the time is required to see how it will impact on Nagorno-Karabakh. 
“Clearly President Ilham Aliyev will have a new interlocutor in the settlement talks although it seems unlikely that it will lead to a change in the process”, she concluded.
Interviewed by Anastasia Lavrina

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