Freedom in the World
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Freedom in the World Scores
Armenia is ruled by a government with a history of soft authoritarian tendencies. People’s ability to influence government decisions is limited, and formal political opposition is weak. High levels of corruption and political influence over the media environment also remain concerns.
- In April, a spike in hostilities between the Armenian-backed Nagorno-Karabakh territory and Azerbaijan led to a significant spike in security concerns within Armenia.
- In July, a group of armed opposition activists seized a police building in Yerevan and issued a list of political demands, including the resignation of the president.
- The July crisis sparked street protests, which the police met with a violent crackdown; dozens, including members of the media, were injured in the violence.
- A cabinet reshuffle took place in September, and the new prime minister took office amid promises of economic reform and anticorruption efforts.
Political and social turbulence marked the year in Armenia. Significant uncertainty about the country’s political structure lingered following a referendum in late 2015 in which voters approved constitutional changes that, among other things, will transform the country from a semipresidential to a parliamentary republic. The referendum had been marred by reports of pervasive fraud and manipulation, and public awareness of the constitutional changes’ technical implications remained limited in 2016.
In April, an outbreak of fighting took place along the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-majority territory that gained de facto independence from Azerbaijan following the breakup of the Soviet Union. The violence represented the fiercest escalation in the territory since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 1994, sparking fears in Armenia about a full-blown military confrontation.
In July, a group of armed men associated with a fringe opposition party, among them veterans of the 1992–94 Nagorno-Karabakh war, seized a police building in the Erebuni district of Yerevan, killing three officers and taking a number hostage. They criticized the government’s handling of the April violence and issued demands, including the resignation of President Serzh Sargsyan. Their actions led to a mixed reaction from Armenian society: while many condemned the use of violence to advance political aims, a small group of protesters gathered by the police station to show their support. They were met with harsh police violence, which in turn led to larger protests expressing grievances with Armenia’s political and security apparatus. The gunmen surrendered after two weeks.
In September, the cabinet resigned. A new cabinet, headed by a former executive from the Russian gas giant Gazprom, took office with promises to implement economic reforms and anticorruption measures.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Armenia, see Freedom in the World 2016.
Note: The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is examined in a separate report.