Rise of civic consciousness in Armenia in April-May 2018

The rapid political developments taking place in Armenia during the last two months have given way to various interpretations. Six weeks after Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation and four weeks after election of Nikol Pashinyan as prime minister, skeptical views are voiced that nothing has changed. Putting aside the fact that time and parliamentary majority are needed for fundamental reforms, let us address a few noteworthy points that have already undoubtedly changed for the better.

Rise of civic consciousness

Over the past two months, RA citizens have for the first time realized that they have a clear influence on the political processes in the country. This consciousness has emerged in all age groups, from schoolchildren blocking streets to elderly women hitting pans with ladles from the windows of their houses in the evenings.

The rise of civic consciousness throughout the movement has been encouraged by the rhetoric of its leaders. Thus, for instance, on April 16 Nikol Pashinyan announced in France Square, “There are citizens in the Republic of Armenia who know that the future of Armenia depends on one person, and that one person is you. And that one person is you. And that one person is you. And that one person is you.” Nikol Pashinyan repeated this statement during almost all the rallies, pointing to the citizens around him every time he would utter the sentence “And that one person is you.”

Moreover, this approach has been present in Nikol Pashinyan’s statements after his election as prime minister as well. During celebrations in Sardarapat dedicated to the Centennial of Armenia’s First Republic, Nikol Pashinyan stated, “This is the formula of our people’s victory, we have won and will win every time we decide to win, when we rely on ourselves and not on others, when we do not give up in the face of any difficulty, when we love, immensely love our homeland and each other, when we do not try to impose our narrow personal interests on our own people and on the state, when every citizen realizes that he is the master in his own country and not the subject, when that feeling of being the master is not only a right but also an obligation, a duty.” There are numerous examples of such statements.

Elimination of political apathy

The movement also eliminated the atmosphere of political apathy in Armenia. The 2017 parliamentary elections were held in an environment of total political indifference. In May 2017, Yerevan City Council elections were also held under such circumstances. The report of the Council of Europe on these elections also emphasized the growth of political apathy in Armenia.

However, there has been an absolutely opposite picture in Armenia in April-May 2018. At present, interest in politics is widespread in Armenia. Public discussions on various political issues are ongoing and on all possible platforms. The proof of that is that Nikol Pashinyan’s Facebook live videos have half a million views on average, sometimes reaching a million views.

Elimination of securitization discourse

All the events that took place in the country’s political life during the years of existence of the Republic of Armenia have always been introduced by the ruling power in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. For instance, for decades mass demonstrations have been presented as a threat to Armenia’s external security. This approach, known as “securitization” in political science, is usually aimed at legitimizing anti-democratic actions. The events of April-May 2018 showed that domestic political developments may have an exclusively domestic nature irrespective of the presence of an external conflict, and that fear derived from the external conflict should not prevent citizens from defending their rights.

No doubt these processes have radically changed the civic consciousness of the RA citizens, creating a new way of thinking which is having an unprecedented impact on the formation of a democratic system of values in Armenia.

Anna Pambukhchyan
“Union of Informed Citizens”

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