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Riots in Armenia: what caused it?

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – On Monday, about 6,000 people took to the streets of the capital of Armenia to protest against what the opposition calls the seizure of power by former President Serzh Sargsyan. Several people were injured in clashes with the police.

In recent weeks, hundreds of opposition activists have held rallies in protest against Sargsyan’s campaign to be nominated for the post of prime minister, after the constitutional amendment was approved in 2015, according to which the powers of the prime minister have been significantly expanded, presidential powers have been reduced.

The number of protesters reached several thousand in recent days, when the center of Yerevan, the capital of the former Soviet Republic, was blocked.

Reuters noted at least three protesters with blood on their hands and feet, after a brawl broke out in the center of the city. Local media quoted the statements of the doctor of the hospital, which stated that three policemen and one protester received injuries.

The police warned the demonstrators that tear gas and other means will be used to disperse the demonstrators if they do not leave the square and unlock the center of the city.

On Saturday, the ruling Republican Party nominated Sargsyan, who served as president from 2008 to 2018.

Sargsyan’s ally Armen Sargsyan, a former prime minister and ambassador to Britain, swore in as president last week after being elected by the parliament in a vote that was to mark the transfer of power to the prime minister and the parliament.

In accordance with the amendment of the constitution approved in 2015, the president will be the formal head of Armenia.
On Tuesday, the parliament should decide on the approval of Sargsyan as prime minister.

The Dashnaktsutyun Party, which is an ally of the Republicans, also supports Sargsyan’s nomination. This means that he must easily obtain the necessary majority of votes in order to obtain the seat of the prime minister.

The opposition leaders accused Sargsyan of changing the political system of the country, which was held in order to keep him in power.

Sargsyan denied the intention to take the post of prime minister until March, when he noted that his appointment would allow him to share his experience gained as president.

The economic factor is hardly a key reason for the spread of protest sentiments in Armenia. To date, the government is carrying out fiscal consolidation in order to reduce the state debt of the republic. At the same time monetary policy in 2018 will be toughened to combat growing inflationary pressures.

According to the forecasts of the Asian Development Bank, the growth of the Armenian economy in 2018 will be 4%. The experts of the ARB note that against the background of GDP growth in the country in 2019, by 4.2%, the inflation rate will be record low, in 2018 it is projected at 2.7%, and in 2019 – 2.2%.

In 2017, the Armenian economy grew by 7.5%, and inflation was 1%. In 2018, the state budget of Armenia plans GDP growth at 4.5%.

“These forecasts suggest a long-lasting favorable external environment and acceleration of structural reforms aimed at improving governance, as well as stimulating private investments and exports,” the ADB Armenian office said.