Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian on Tuesday pledged to expand daily “blockades” of key government buildings, while telling supporters to stop spending nights at a street junction in Yerevan that has been occupied by them for the last four days.
Holding his biggest rally yet, Pashinian put a brave face on his and his allies’ failure to prevent Serzh Sarkisian from becoming prime minister. He said their daily protests have “paralyzed” the government and brought about a “rebirth of the Armenian people” which will keep Sarkisian under strong pressure.
“A non-violent, velvet, popular revolution has begun in Armenia,” he told thousands of supporters rallying in the city’s central Republic Square.
The protesters gathered in the sprawling square in the evening after blocking not only streets but also entrances to three government ministries, the Central Bank and even the Prosecutor-General’s Office for several hours.
Pashinian claimed that after that “blockade” civil servants were told by their superiors not to report for work until further notice. “We must blockade more buildings,” he said.
“Today we paralyzed the city center but tomorrow the whole of Yerevan must be paralyzed. Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party lackeys must have no room for movement in Yerevan.”
At the same time Pashinian urged activists to end their overnight sit-ins at the intersection of two avenues forming France Square. Up to 200 people have spent nights on benches and in tents there since the square was occupied late on Friday.
“I’m not sending people home,” the opposition leader insisted when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) later in the evening. “It usually makes sense to spend nights in a square when there is a risk of losing control of it. But now all squares in Yerevan are ours.”
A leading member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Vahram Baghdasarian, denounced these calls. “It is inadmissible to impose blockades on state buildings,” he said.
Armen Rustamian, a leader of the pro-government Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), was also critical. “In which other countries does the seizure of state buildings testify to a velvet revolution?” he said.
But Rustamian also admitted that he is impressed with scores of mostly young Armenians who have demonstrated in recent days. “I am happy that we really have a politically active society which acts from time to time,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I can see young people, a post-independence generation, who are ready to rise up. This spirit must be maintained. It must not be broken.”