Interview with Edgar Vardanyan, expert for the Armenian Center for National and International Studies
You have been in Mashtots Park where the Initiative Group for the dismantlement of boutiques is trying to demolish them. What else is happening in the park?
First of all, the society displays its force which is based on law, hence it sends the authorities, particularly the police, into an awkward situation. This is something unexpected for them because it is different when you gather somewhere and voice claims and when you do a direct action to restore your rights. We saw our action was largely responded by the society and covered by the mass media means becoming an important event in the social-political life of the country.
It’s all about four boutiques that could be dismantled after so much public concern. Do you think that the refusal to remove is determined by the fact that the brother of the owner of boutiques is number ten on the Republican Party list, or is this a matter of principle?
They are not trying to preserve the boutiques, here the regime is trying to defend the basis that nourishes it, while the basis is the criminal-oligarchic agreements on the clear division of sectors and wealth. It is a matter of principle for the oligarchs, wealth accumulated through illegitimate and illegal ways, defense of their positions. They have agreed on the ways of defense and if there can be only one case to question the agreement and the invulnerability of the oligarchs’ wealth, it will cause deep doubts in the oligarchs that the system is not defending them. This is the issue since such doubts may bring about the collapse of the whole system.
Meanwhile, were there a classic authoritarian system in Armenia, the authorities would have resolved this issue quite easily. They could just pressure people and close the issue, or play the role of the kind king and say that they dismantle the boutiques since the society wants so. We have a different situation, we have a criminal-oligarchic system which supposes a group of people who have enormous economic and political resources and will never allow concessions on their account. But now the self-determined citizen has come who is a new subject and does not know the “criminal-oligarchic” rules and challenges its guardians.
Is a self-determined society formed in Mashtots Park?
Yes, it is. Certainly we cannot say what part of the society is self-determined, maybe it’s quite a small part, but I can see a tendency of progress. You know, the selfless, open, public steps of the members of the Group for Dismantling Boutiques excited the society and their behavior is contagious and exciting. People understand now that this is not just a game and it is a matter of dignity. These people said that if they broke the law with their actions, the police could arrest them. This is very important and can be a good precedent for the society and a very dangerous one for the oligarchy because if these events deal with only a few boutiques today, tomorrow might affect another construction, another institution, and then all the illegally operating institutions may find themselves in a public siege. The society with its legal steps may force the regime to deploy police to defend all its suspicious, illegal and illegitimate facilities. This will cause a crisis and in the result of literate action by the society the crisis may be resolved in favor of the people.