ARMENIA POWDERKEG: Opposition’s Pashinyan tries to reverse major blunder as protests come to halt

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The Color Revolution tactic being applied on Armenia has been met with a Counter-Color tactic by those regional forces charged with maintaining stability, which includes certain elements of the Armenian establishment.

The opposition, led by Pashinyan, has taken his campaign as far as it can go under the present conditions available in the country, at this time. The stepping down of Serzh Sargsyan as PM on April 23rd in the face of street protests, came as a surprise to opposition handlers in Washington and Yerevan, led nominally by Pashinyan.

But for the incumbent Republican Party which Sargsyan leads, they did not rush to name their own candidate who would seek to run in an upcoming election. Instead, some have even said they would consider supporting Pashinyan himself. So then we have Pashinyan meeting with Russian representatives, and giving assurances that any government led by Pashinyan would pursue a balanced Russia friendly relationship.

Two things critical for the Color Revolution tactic to succeed are forward momentum, and a problem situation which can be personified or rather anthropomorphised into a single individual. That momentum was the rolling protest movement which Pashinyan toured and oxygenated across the Caucus region country.

With Sargsyan stepping down but endorsing no electoral replacement, the opposition lost this personification of the ‘problem person’ at the ‘head of the regime’. For the very concept of regime, in the Color Revolution playbook, is boiled down to the ‘cult of the personality’ of the to-be-removed leader.

With elements of the Republican Party itself saying they would support Pashinyan as Prime Minister, they were able to slow down the protest movement by holding a vote, one which predictably Pashinyan lost, but one where we saw a handful of Republicans go over to the side of supporting Pashinyan. Was that stage managed, in order to give a symbolic victory to Pashinyan at the expense of movement momentum?

Normally, victories augment momentum, as they are evidence of the inevitability of the outcome. The power of creating a sense that the opposition’s victory is ultimately inevitable is a critical feature of the Color Revolution tactic.

But when there is no personification of the regime against which these symbolic or even tactical victories are won, they change in effect.

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To give some breathing room, and to test (or divide) Pashinyan’s real popular support, the National Assembly agreed to give Pashinyan a shot at being voted right in. But the National Assembly failed to elect Pashinyan as Prime Minister, and so he subsequently called on his protesters to block major roads, roads used by police and for commerce, the international airport, schools,  and continued on with his call for a ‘General Strike’. While thousands turned out, it was nothing like the tens of thousands seen in weeks before.

This would seem to confirm our initial assessment that Pashinyan would be making a strategic error in continuing his rhetorical and organizing campaign against ‘the government’ without a regime that’s personified. Two personalities are required for this to work. There must be first a ‘regime personified as corruption, the past, and all unresolved grievances – Sargsyan. Then there must be the development around this of an astro-turf movement, from which the reluctant protagonist emerges. If the ‘regime’ steps down, but the ‘reluctant protagonist’ isn’t satisfied, the real motives of the protagonist are questioned by the mass.

The reluctant protagonist, ideally, doesn’t really want all of this ‘power’ stuff. He just wants to see justice and end to corrupt rule, but he is not himself interested in ruling – not until the ‘movement’ can manufacture the hyper-reality of that call ‘from below’. Then the reluctant protagonist steps up to the place, the tone is something along the lines of:

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‘If no one else can do this, then, at great personal risk to my life and limb, I will make this sacrifice for the people. ‘

The Associated Press reported the following late last night:

“Armenia’s protest leader has called on his supporters to suspend their anti-government protests Thursday, saying he has enough support to become prime minister and end the country’s political crisis.

Nikol Pashinian told a Wednesday evening rally that “tomorrow, we will work in parliament.” In a surprise move, the ruling party, which had a day earlier rejected Pashinian’s bid to become premier in a parliamentary vote, said that it would back any candidate for prime minister that was nominated by a third of the body’s 105 members.

Pashinian says all three opposition parties will nominate him to become prime minister, effectively meaning the job would be his if the ruling party honors its pledge.

Mass demonstrations forced Serzh Sargsyan to resign last week as prime minister just days after he was named to the post. Sargsyan was Armenia’s president for 10 years before stepping down because of term limits.”

It may indeed happen this way, and it may not. What’s critical now is that for the last week, Pashinyan’s street support has decreased in inverse proportion to his talks with the Armenian ‘establishment’. It is too soon to say, however, if the parliament is really set on letting Pashinyan take the reigns.

The mass psychology of the protest movement works differently, however. Without a regime personified by a single individual, the individual of focus now is Pashinyan. The public develops chaos fatigue, and starts to move to the line of ‘what else does Pashinyan want?’

As we wrote about previously, the danger for the opposition starts when the public begins to perceive that this is all about Pashinyan. It’s very difficult to make it about Sargsyan, with Sargsyan gone. In other words, Pashinyan was running a public campaign against Sargsyan. Pashinyan had successfully messaged this movement as an anti-Sargsyan one. The posters and slogans were premised on the demonization of Sargsyan the man.

With elements of Sargsyan’s Republican party now saying they will back Pashinyan’s nomination, it can have a similar messaging effect as the intentionally manufactured fake news that Israel prefers Assad over FSA/Al Nusra rule. This doesn’t give credibility to Assad, just as Republican Party support for Pashinyan doesn’t bolster his image as someone opposed to a corrupt system. If ‘the system’ sees Pashinyan as someone they can play ball with, then maybe the worst fears of the opposition protesters, that Pashinyan is just another elite playing for power, becomes more realistic.

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That’s why Pashinyan’s call for a general strike weakened him, especially given that Armenia’s fragile economy cannot handle another shock – an arbitrary and self-imposed one would be all the more foolish and selfish on the party of Pashinyan. So his calling off the strike the same day was a reflection of this zig-zag course he’s taken. ”Pashinyan says, jump, we jump .. Pashinyan says get loud, we get loud … Pashinyan says to be quiet, we go quiet. ”  This becomes increasingly about Pashinyan, and responsibility for the chaos and turmoil is no longer with Sargyan. Before, it was Sargsyan’s fault for not stepping down. Now, it’s Pashinyan’s fault for not letting up when the fight in the eyes of most supporters, was already won.

This can now go any number of ways. In one sense, he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t – precisely the pincer that the Color tactic tries to put the ‘regime’ in. But when the opposition leader himself becomes the focus of doubt, the dynamic has the potential to be flipped. So one critical factor will be if the public stops seeing Pashinyan as this guy ….



And starts remembering that he’s really just this guy:



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