Sat, 23 Nov 2019

Anti-Pashinyan Facebook group forms new political party

Eurasianet
29 May 2019, 23:49 GMT+10

Armenia's newest political party has been born out of a nationalist, conservative social media platform that portrays the new government as a threat to Armenian identity and values.

The Facebook-group-turned-party, Adekvad, announced its intention to enter politics in a May 27 post. "Since the political system is currently handicapped and is absolutely not viable to solve the issues the country faces, we urgently need to call on a political entity that will resolutely stand against the risks that challenge our statehood," the post read. It used common anti-globalist imagery, evoking "the notion of an unassailable fortress" and warning that, under its current trajectory, Armenia could "melt with the majority and vanish in the haze of history."

The Adekvad Facebook page was launched in June 2018 and quickly became popular, with more than 27,000 followers, and known for its nationalist, anti-Western and right-wing stances. It has called the fact that many of Armenia's young elite have been educated or trained in the United States "the second stage of the genocide." Other favorite targets include Armenia's LGBT minority and financier and philanthropist George Soros. But the most frequent target is Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for the fact that he has allegedly opened the door to all those influences on Armenia.

One of the leading members of the group, however, used to be an ally of Pashinyan, a member of the prime minister's Civil Contract party. In an April interview on Kentron TV, Artur Danielyan said that he left the party over philosophical differences with Pashinyan. "I was with Civil Contract for a year and, in the beginning we had agreement that the party will not have a dominant leader and during our last meeting I told him that he lied to me, that's it," he said. Among other prominent members are Narek Malyan, a former adviser to former chief of police Vladimir Gasparyan, who regularly criticizes Pashinyan on law-and-order issues; and Konstantin Nakalyan, founder of the tabloid website blognews.am.

Inevitably, Adekvad has been accused of conspiring with Russia. The Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research lab published an article suggesting that Adekvad and another affiliated site, antifake.am, were part of Russia's influence operations based solely on the fact that the website's IP address is registered in St. Petersburg. (It's not uncommon for Armenian news sites to be registered abroad.) Adekvad responded conspiratorially, suggesting that they would soon be blocked along with other "right information sources" whose "political views don't match with those of Facebook's leadership."

In recent months, Adekvad has moved from cyberspace to the streets. They launched a campaign to get supporters to spray-paint "#SutNikol" - "#LiarNikol" - around Armenia, and organized a contest, "Who can present the prime minister's biggest lie through art!?"

There have even been physical clashes. In March, Malyan was attacked by members of a pro-Pashinyan student group, "Restart," who accosted him in Yerevan and attempted to throw him in a garbage can. In May, a member of Civil Contract, Arthur Ispiryan, claims that he was accosted in a cafe near Yerevan's Cascade by a group of people including Danielyan.

As a new party with no power, Adekvad will have no tangible opportunities to make real change. But they can nevertheless present a challenge to Pashinyan: they have not been tarnished by previous turns in government, in contrast to other opposition parties like the Republican Party or the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. And they speak a social media-friendly language attractive to young people, including the Facebook live videos that Pashinyan himself has used to such great effect.

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