YEREVAN — Opposition protesters occupied a small square in downtown Yerevan on Sunday at the start of what their leaders described as a “civil disobedience” campaign aimed at toppling Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The opposition Hayastan and Pativ Unem alliances pitched tents in France Square, the intersection of four key avenues, as they rallied their supporters there after days of small-scale protests. They said they will block streets in the city center and other parts of the Armenian capital on Monday to step up the pressure on the Armenian government.
Some participants of the rally marched in small groups from four different directions of Armenia: Tigranashen, Ijevan, Sardarapat and Aparan to joined the groups carrying out actions in the capital.
“We will not leave this place until we achieve victory,” said Anna Grigoryan, a lawmaker affiliated with Hayastan.
“These authorities have no mandate to lead the country to new concessions,” Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a Hayastan leader, told the protesters before announcing the “large-scale actions of disobedience.”
The opposition set up the protest camp amid heightened security, with scores of riot police deployed nearby. They did not attempt to disperse the protesters.
Earlier on Sunday, Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General warned the opposition against “provoking mass disturbances.”
In a separate statement, the National Security Service (NSS) claimed that there is a “real danger” of such violence. It said it will not hesitate to counter “any kind of actions destabilizing Armenia’s internal stability.”
Representatives of the ruling Civil Contract party denounced opposition efforts to bring down Armenia’s government through street protests and said they will end in failure.
Accordingly, they ruled out Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation demanded by the parliament’s two opposition blocs.
Artur Hovannisyan, a parliament deputy from Civil Contract, accused the opposition of exploiting the Karabakh issue for political purposes.
“This narrative ended after 2018,” Hovannisyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “They are now trying to revive it because they have no legitimate source of coming to power — namely, the people’s support — because we can see that their actions are not accompanied by strong support from citizens.”
Hrachya Hakobyan, another pro-government lawmaker and Pashinyan’s brother-in-law, also said that the opposition forces will fail to unseat the current government.
“The [average] guy sitting at home and following their actions hears only negative messages and will not participate in those actions,” he said.
Both lawmakers rejected any parallels between the ongoing opposition campaign and the 2018 mass protests that brought Pashinyan to power.