Dark days:

The democracy that Armenians dreamed of during their long decades under Moscow’s yoke is slipping away. After opponents challenged last month’s flawed presidential election, the government imposed a brutal state of emergency. At least eight people are now dead, independent news outlets throttled and all protests silenced.

President Bush and other Western leaders need to make clear to Armenia’s government that such behaviour is unacceptable. Compared to post-Soviet tyrannies like Belarus or Uzbekistan, Armenia may not look so bad. That is why it is so important to halt this slide into authoritarianism before it is too late. Official election results handed an overwhelming victory to the ruling party candidate, Serge Sargsyan. International monitors declared that while the overall outcome appeared fair, there were serious problems with the vote count. The protests that followed turned violent after police began beating demonstrators.

This is not a case of pure democratic virtue against pure authoritarian evil. And once government forces set off last weekend’s violence, some of those who turned out in Ter-Petrossian’s behalf seemed interested in looting nearby shops. The main responsibility lies with Armenia’s government leaders, and it is to them that the White House must address its protests. — The New York Times