Color Coding: “Orange” or “rose” or “apricot”, “Barevolution” is re-shaping definition of post-election conflict in Armenia

Following “Orange” (Ukraine) and “Rose” (Georgia) revolutions of the past decade, now the post-February-18 movement called by its leader the “Barevolution” is viewed by some in the country as Armenia’s orange-ish, apricot-ish revolution.

Ruben Hakobyan, head of the Heritage party faction, says Armenia is going through an electoral revolution and does not want to call it ‘orange’.

“It is an electoral revolution in Armenia; let anyone refer any color to it they want,” he says.

Nonetheless, participants of the rallies today and students boycotting their classes, who have joined the post-election movement, have orange ribbons tied around their arms. Along with the apricot-color barevolution – revolution of greetings - the oppositional movement under Raffi Hovannisian’s leadership has introduced new political technologies into the political field of Armenia. His “sidewalk” campaign was followed by post-election visits to the provinces, open-air press conferences, and speeches of young civil activists – elements of public involvement not seen in previous Armenian campaigns.

Armen Badalyan, expert in political and election technologies, however, discards the application of such political tools as pointless, if a political process is missing.

Comparing the opposition under first president of Armenia and leader of the Armenian National Congress (ANC) Levon Ter-Petrosyan five years ago to today’s movement, Badalyan told ArmeniaNow: “The difference is not between the tools, but rather the content of the struggle. In 2008, too, there were people who wore orange ties;. Now it’s not ties, but arm-ribbons, does it change anything? The thing is that in 2008 it was quite clear what Ter-Petrosyan wanted, whereas it is not clear today what Raffi wants.”

Heritage member David Sanasaryan says in movements such as this both the appearance and the content are important, however he does not relate those symbols to either the orange revolution or the revolution of roses, and believes that “barevolution” is a good name, especially popular among the youth.

What stands out as one of the main differences is that Hovannisian never uses any insults directed against president Serzh Sargsyan, as opposed to Ter-Petrosyan’s speeches in 2008 flooded with sharp criticism, accusations, and offensive language against the authorities.

“In no way does this mean concession or humility. He [Hovannisian] says ‘you have lost and must admit your defeat’. It is a new culture to us. And Raffi’s ‘barev’ has been a more important sociological survey than all the other types,” Sanasaryan told ArmeniaNow.

If during the public rallies five years ago Ter-Petrosyan was separating Karabakhis [native of Nagorno Karabakh], and kept pointing out his roots being from Musa Ler (historical site of Armenian resistance during the 1915 genocide; he was born in Aleppo), this opposition is trying to erase that distinction, making a point that an Armenian is an Armenian no matter where s/he was born.

Last week during a rally, ANC faction member Nikol Pashinyan said in reference to the recent incidents at Yerevan State University when assistant to the rector Gevorg Melkonyan called troops from Akhalkalaki (Georgian-Armenian students of Samtskhe-Javakheti) to help deal with the protesting students who had joined the civil movement: “We will not allow to put a distinction between Artsakhtsis [same as Karabakhtsi] and Hayastantsis [native of Armenia], or Akhalkalaktsis [historical Armenian city, now part of Georgia], or Ijevantsis [city in Armenia]. I am Yerevantsi as much as I am Karabakhtsi or Akhalkalaktsi. Our people has never fought one against another, our struggle is against violence, illegality and lawlessness, against anarchy. Hence, this is a struggle for the sake of the unity of the Armenian nation.”

During the same rally, popular song-writer Ruben Hakhverdyan said something he was later sharply criticized for: “What is this, why should someone from a remote Azeri province come and lead us?”, the reference being that president Sargsyan is native of Karabakh, formerly part of Soviet Azerbaijan. The social networks and media exploded with outrage on how an artist who has joined this movement could have said something like that.

Sanasaryan says: “Raffi is guiding the movement… they are simply looking for a blunder to immediately strike a blow against him.”

Badalyan is convinced that the current post-election movement is no threat to the official outcome. According to him --- no matter what name is given to subsequent events -- the event titled “presidential elections” is over and settled.

Sanasaryan counters that: “The pulse of the movement is beating steady. Raffi does not want to take the road of confrontation, but I believe that if all the means are exhausted, blocked by the authorities, there will be a confrontation. Our citizens cannot tolerate the fact that their votes have been pocketed. The authorities are not too happy with this method of struggle – an atmosphere of love and warm greetings --- when more and more people keep joining us. As soon as the authorities feel they are losing, they will resort to a clash.”