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Southern Caucasus: Political Crises, Street Protests And Anti-Russian Hysteria

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Southern Caucasus: Political Crises, Street Protests And Anti-Russian Hysteria

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A new zone of instability is slowly emerging in Southern Caucasus.

The political crisis is still on-going in Armenia, following the coup and Nikol Pashinyan assuming the prime minister seat. After being re-elected as Prime Minister following the December 9th, 2018 election, Nikol Pashniyan has struggled in consolidating power.

The protest organizer, turned prime minister, continues to use unconstitutional measures and organizes protests to enforce his decisions, due to lack of actual authority.

Most recently, Pashniyan called for protesters to occupy the court building in Yerevan, and demonstrate against judges who, according to him, showed political bias, after a Yerevan court released former president Robert Kocharyan from pre-trial detention.

In terms of unconstitutional measures, Armenian parliament elected lawyer Vahe Grygorian for the vacant seat of a judge in the Constitutional Court. This was the second attempt to elect him as a judge, after in October 2018, the parliament before the snap elections rejected his candidacy.

Many politicians and prominent lawyers questioned the legitimacy of re-nominating the same candidate, referring to paragraph 4 of the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Armenia, which states that “If a new judge of the Constitutional Court is not elected, the competent authority nominates a new candidate to the judge of the Constitutional The trial within a month after the vote.

Vahe Grigoryan is not a new candidate. The Secretary of the opposition group Gevorg Gorgisyan said that instead of electing Grigoryan against the Consitution, the ruling majority could have voted to change the law and simply elected him in the following year.

Another subject of discussion was the earlier statements by candidate Vahe Grigoryan regarding the legitimacy of President Armen Sargsyan, which he questioned. The deputies from the “Prosperous Armenia” opposition party also reminded of similar statements made earlier by the candidate on the eve of the vote. At a briefing in the National Assembly on June 5, Vice-Speaker of the National Assembly from the Prosperous Armenia Party Vahe Enfiajian stated in particular that in his interviews Vahe Grigoryan had repeatedly stated that the incumbent President of Armenia was elected illegitimately.

“And if we take into account this circumstance, then it turns out that the illegitimate president nominated a legitimate candidate for the position?” Enfiajyan explained.

After being elected, Grigoryan said that out of all the Constitutional Court judges, he and Arman Dilanyan were the only judges, and Dilanyan was on leave. Thus Vahe Grigoryan said he should become the Chairman of the Constitutional Court immediately after being elected as a member of it.

The scandalous statement of the newly elected judge of the Constitutional Court, who self-proclaimed himself as the President of the Constitutional Court, immediately caused a new squall of statements and disputes, both political and purely legal in nature.

And if the legal assessment sounded mostly critical of the absurdity of the statement, then the political part began a new stage of nonsense, in which the main role was played by the Chairman of the Parliament Ararat Mirzoyan.

Answering the question of whether he considers Vahe Grigorian to be the head of the Armenian Constitutional Court, the head of the parliament explained:

“I think Vahe Grigoryan clearly stated that there are two judges of the Armenian Constitutional Court, one of whom seems to be outside the country. Should someone fulfill the duties of a judge of the Constitutional Court of Armenia or not?”

These are just some of the more recent attempts to consolidate power by Nikol Pashinyan’s faction, reports such as these are on-going and show the inability of the new “political elite” in Armenia to effectively lead the country. The power they gained through the support of a hardcore pro-US minority, which, thanks to loud proclamations of Russian hysteria, assumed the majority position now appears to be completely incapable of handling it.

The anti-government protests fueled by general anti-Russian hysteria are roaring in Georgia.

The “Georgia Online” outlet reported that in response to Russia “occupying 20% of Georgian territories” [refering to conflicts in Abhazia and South Ossetia] many cafes introduced a 20% increase in prices for Russian tourists in Tbilisi, and also in Batumi.

“Friends, we are probably the only cafe in Batumi that does not have a menu in Russian. This was our conscious act. After the last events, we want to join our colleagues in Tbilisi and increase the cost of services for Russian tourists by 20%,” said the Gardens café in Batumi.

In addition, all cinemas in Georgia stopped showing movies with Russian translations, in solidarity with the protesters.

It should be reminded that, Russia is actually Georgia’s 2nd largest trading partner for 2018, following Turkey. And that is in terms of total trade, most of the country’s exports go to Russia.

Especially for Georgian wine – out of approximately 12 million bottles produced in 2018, Russia bought 3/4.

And, indeed, the Russian State Duma and the Council of the Federation are discussing economic sanctions against Georgia, in addition to the cancellation of all flights effective of July 8th.

Anticipating the Russian response, Georgia plans to launch an advertising campaign to attract tourists from other countries (primarily from Ukraine) in order to at least partially replace the subsiding passenger traffic with Russia.

At the same time, Georgian officials, despite blaming Russia for organizing the anti-government protests, are also calling for the Russian tourists not to leave the country, because that would lead to big losses.

It has become quite the trend to blame Russia for every issue in the region, but absurdity is reached when both the government, opposition, and the protesters that are demonstrating against both are blaming Russia for pulling the strings on the situation, and at the same time are protesting against it.

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