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The Economist: Europe

The Economist: Europe

With a growing global circulation (now more than 1.5 million including both print* and digital) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognized and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary.

Articles by The Economist: Europe

The battle to succeed Angela Merkel gets nastier

5 days ago

Apr 17th 2021BERLIN“MY PLACE is in Bavaria.” When asked if he hoped to succeed Angela Merkel, who will step down as Germany’s chancellor after an election in September, Markus Söder repeated his not-quite-denial so often that it became a running joke. As head of Bavaria’s centre-right Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Mr Söder (pictured above, right), a cocky, self-assured type, has ruled Germany’s brashest, and second biggest, state since 2018. Many thought his ambitions ended there.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Yet April 13th found Mr Söder seated in the Bundestag explaining why his place might be in Berlin after all. The CDU/CSU choose a joint

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Italian women take more top jobs, but many have no job at all

5 days ago

Apr 15th 2021ROMEENRICO LETTA, a former prime minister who returned from the political wilderness to lead Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD), is one of Italy’s more courteous politicians. Yet in one respect he has acted ruthlessly since being elected leader on March 14th. Having named a woman as one of his two deputies and given women eight of the 16 seats in the PD’s executive, he forced out its male chief whips in both houses of parliament so that women could be appointed to replace them.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr Letta’s uncharacteristic purge came as a well-judged response to an outcry that followed his predecessor’s decision to put men into all three of the ministerial places allotted to the

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Fish tongues, a Norwegian delicacy harvested by children

5 days ago

Apr 17th 2021OSLOFRIED IN BUTTER with a light flour batter and some dried herbs, cod tongue is a delicacy in Norway and beyond. Around 80 tonnes are harvested every year from fish caught in Norway’s northern waters. Softer in texture than the flesh of the fish, cod tongue dissolves in the mouth with a hint of saltiness. It is the “angels’ share” of the fish, says Jan-Erik Indrestrand of Fiskarlaget, the Norwegian fishermen’s association.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Liv Eva Kirkesæther, a 35-year-old who works for a marine research institute, says that when she was a girl, men and boys dominated the cod-tongue-cutting trade on Lofoten, a Norwegian archipelago. This year, she was happy to see a grandmother and

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The EU’s Calhounian moment

5 days ago

Apr 17th 2021LAST SUMMER it was impossible to discuss the EU without someone mentioning Alexander Hamilton. The decision to issue €750bn ($895bn) in collective debt sent wonks scurrying to history books (or the musical). A lively debate followed over whether this indeed amounted to a Hamiltonian moment, as in 1790 when the young American founding father persuaded the new country to assume the debts of its states. Time might have been better spent boning up on another figure from the republic’s early history, John C. Calhoun. At first glance, an antebellum vice-president and supporter of slavery has few lessons for the EU. But he was also the main advocate of nullification: the right for states to strike down federal laws they deemed unconstitutional. This fight over legal supremacy began

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A Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border prompts alarm

5 days ago

Apr 14th 2021THE LAST time that Russia gathered so many troops on Ukraine’s borders, it went on to invade the country and annex Crimea. A deployment in recent weeks “mirrors the size and scope and scale” of Russian activity in 2014, noted General Todd Wolters, America’s senior commander for Europe, on April 13th.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.A public acknowledgement that same day by Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, that the country had indeed built up two armies and three airborne units, but only for “combat training exercises”, was hardly reassuring—the invasion seven years ago was also preceded by similarly ambiguous manoeuvres.The aim of the Russian build-up remains unclear. It is certainly not a

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Bulgaria’s prime minister stumbles badly at the polls

12 days ago

Apr 10th 2021“YOU WON’T make it on your own…let’s unite,” said Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s prime minister, standing forlornly in the snow soon after the polls had closed on April 4th. Opinion pollsters had predicted that the man who has dominated Bulgarian politics for more than a decade would lose some of his once-stellar support, but they did not foresee that he would do nearly as badly as he actually did. Now Mr Borisov is busy suggesting the formation of a technocratic government, which he would presumably control, though from behind the scenes.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr Borisov is clinging to power by his fingernails, and will remain dangling for weeks as the shocked leaders of the parties that have

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Genetically, Basques aren't that different from other Spaniards

12 days ago

Apr 10th 2021MADRIDWITH THEIR unique language, unrelated to all other European tongues, the continent’s oldest cave paintings, and their seafaring, gastronomic and choral traditions, the Basques have long had a strong sense of identity. Nationalist propagandists have gone further, claiming that the Basques form an ancient and superior race, the first Europeans. In some versions they descend directly from the biblical Noah.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.A new study of the genes of Basques and their neighbours brings mixed news for nationalists. The study, by a team at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona and published in Current Biology, shows that Basques are indeed genetically different from their neighbours.

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Does the Kremlin want Alexei Navalny to die in prison?

12 days ago

Apr 10th 2021VLADIMIR PUTIN may have hoped that locking up his main political opponent in a harsh penal colony would finally put him out of sight and out of mind. Instead, Alexei Navalny continues to torment the Russian president, exposing the cruelty and lies of his regime.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Deprived of his freedom and of any public platform, Mr Navalny is fighting back with the only instruments he has left: his body and his life. Since March 31st he has been on a hunger strike in his cell in Pokrov, some 100km (60 miles) east of Moscow. He is protesting against the appalling conditions of his confinement—he is being deprived both of sleep and of medical care. He has a fever and breathing problems.

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Emmanuel Macron’s troubles open up space for Marine Le Pen

12 days ago

Apr 10th 2021MARION ANNE PERRINE LE PEN never really meant to go into politics. It was her eldest sister, Marie-Caroline, who was thought destined to follow in the footsteps of their father, Jean-Marie, co-founder in 1972 of France’s far-right National Front. Marine, as she became known in childhood, was the baby of the family, the third blonde daughter, who set out to make a career as a lawyer. Yet for the past ten years, for reasons of chance and guile, it is Marine Le Pen who has run the party she renamed National Rally. And in 12 months’ time it is her name that will appear on the ballot paper at the next French presidential election, for the third consecutive contest. Is it time to think the unthinkable?Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio

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How Netflix is creating a common European culture

20 days ago

Mar 31st 2021“BARBARIANS”, A NETFLIX drama set 2,000 years ago in ancient Germania, inverts some modern stereotypes. In it, sexy, impulsive, proto-German tribesmen take on an oppressive superstate led by cold, rational Latin-speakers from Rome. Produced in Germany, it has all the hallmarks of a glossy American drama (gratuitous violence and prestige nudity) while remaining unmistakably German (in one episode someone swims through a ditch full of scheisse). It is a popular mix: on a Sunday in October, it was the most-watched show on Netflix not just in Germany, but also in France, Italy and 14 other European countries.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Moments when Europeans sit down and watch the same thing at

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Serbia is outpacing nearly every country in the EU at vaccination

20 days ago

Apr 3rd 2021SERBIA MAY not have had such glowing press coverage since the first world war. A poor country by European standards, and plagued by corruption, it nonetheless has one of the world’s fastest covid-19 vaccination campaigns—third in Europe in total doses delivered per person. Thousands of Bosnians, Macedonians and Montenegrins have crossed the border for free jabs. President Aleksandar Vucic has been having a good pandemic. Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.On the government’s health website Serbs can sign up to receive a Chinese vaccine, a Russian one, a Western one or whatever is available. About three-quarters of the shots given so far are Chinese. To obtain the sought-after Pfizer vaccine, you may

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Germany’s management of covid-19 is growing shakier

20 days ago

Apr 3rd 2021BERLINA COMMUNIST-ERA joke, in updated form, has been doing the rounds on German social media. “Are there no vaccines here?” someone asks, to be told: “No, there are no vaccines over there. There are no tests here.” The gag captures the dismay many Germans feel about their state’s inability to fend off the third wave of the pandemic, even as other countries vaccinate their way towards freedom. Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Two factors explain the descent into misery. The first is that much of the lockdown armoury is already deployed. In October, politicians could close restaurants, bars and museums to battle the second wave. But most restrictions have only tightened since, leaving Germany to

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Latvia’s ancient poetry is getting its first major translation

20 days ago

Mar 31st 2021OVER THE years, Swedes, Germans and Russians have all had a go at conquering Latvia and imposing their flavours of Christianity on it. Today Lutherans worship mainly in the country’s west, and Russian Orthodox in the east. But Latvia’s deepest rituals are still inspired by its home-grown brand of paganism. They include wild summer-solstice parties and a national song-and-dance festival every five years.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The hymns of this prehistoric faith are folk poems, typically four lines long, called dainas. Thanks to Krisjanis Barons, a folklorist who encouraged Latvians to note down such quatrains in the 19th and early 20th centuries, over a million of them are on file at the

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The French armed forces are planning for high-intensity war

22 days ago

Mar 31st 2021LONDON AND PARISIN THE FORESTS and plains of the Champagne-Ardenne region, where once the great powers went into battle, the French armed forces are beginning to prepare for the return of a major conflict. Planned for 2023, Exercise Orion is a full-scale divisional exercise that will last several days, based probably out of camps at Suippes, Mailly and Mourmelon. It will involve the full range of French military capacity on a scale not tested for decades. The drill will include command-post exercises, hybrid scenarios, simulation and live-fire drills. Around 10,000 soldiers could take part, as well as the air force and, in a separate maritime sequence, the navy. Belgian, British and American forces may join in.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the

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A row over land takes Italy back to the Middle Ages

26 days ago

Mar 27th 2021ROMETROUBLE HAS been brewed on Mount Circeo, south of Rome, ever since it was home to Circe, a legendary sorceress who turned Odysseus’s shipmates into pigs. The latest tribulation arrived in envelopes that plopped onto doormats in and around the modern town of San Felice Circeo in recent weeks, and demanded that the occupants stump up five years’ back payments of a levy some had no idea they owed. The demands are the latest twist in a dispute with its origins in the Middle Ages.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Several years ago, says their lawyer, Bianca Maria Menichelli, the heirs of Baron Giovanpaolo James Aguet got together to delegate one of their number to register what they say is their right

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Madrid’s snap election shakes up Spanish politics

26 days ago

Mar 27th 2021MADRIDANTONIO MACHADO, a Spanish poet, once referred to Madrid as “the breakwater of all the Spains”. That is the effect a snap election for the capital’s regional government on May 4th is having on national politics. A polarised campaign has roiled both right and left. The contest has prompted Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, a hard-left party, to step down as Spain’s deputy prime minister to stand in the election himself because, he said, of the risk of “an extreme right-wing government” in the capital. For Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the conservative regional president, it is a battle between “freedom and communism”. In fact the election may be followed by calmer water for Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, and for Spain itself.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support

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Why the EU is still wary of America

26 days ago

Mar 27th 2021ROMANTIC GESTURES are difficult in a pandemic. But America and the European Union are trying to rekindle their old passion. Like many people struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship in lockdown, Joe Biden was planning to settle for a video call with EU leaders on March 25th to lay out his vision of their life together. It was intended as a make-up session after what has been a tricky patch. The Biden camp had naively thought not being Donald Trump would make European leaders swoon. Instead, Mr Biden’s election in November was swiftly followed by the EU signing an investment agreement with China, a move America saw as neither friendly nor helpful. Things started to improve only a few days ago, after the EU joined forces with America to launch sanctions against

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A Dutch election boosts both pro-EU liberals and the far right

March 18, 2021

Mar 20th 2021AMSTERDAMDUTCH POLITICS are absurdly complicated. The Netherlands has a proportional representation system with no minimum threshold (most EU countries have one at 5%), ensuring a large number of parties and a constant churn of new ones. Voters are more evenly divided than ever between them. The prime minister, Mark Rutte, a brilliant and imperturbably cheerful tactician, has nonetheless managed to stay atop the heap for ten years, through three ruling coalitions. Last year he was hit with the covid-19 pandemic and with a child-benefits scandal that forced his government to resign just two months before an election. Yet there was never much doubt that when the votes were counted, he and his centre-right Liberal (VVD) party would again come in first. Preliminary results after

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French politics pits cats against dogs

March 18, 2021

Mar 20th 2021PARISCATS AND dogs have become the new weapons in France’s image-politics wars. Things began to heat up late last year when Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front), revealed that she had passed an exam to become an accredited cat-breeder. Her feline fervour was already well known. Ms Le Pen considers cats to be “part of the family” and once accused a Doberman belonging to her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of killing one of her treasured mogs. But this latest twist looked suspiciously like part of a bid to soften the image of a leader who has sought to distance herself from her father’s inflammatory far-right politics.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Just as Ms Le

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Russia’s liberal surrogacy rules are under threat

March 18, 2021

Mar 18th 2021MOSCOWRUSSIA IS ONE of the few places where commercial surrogacy is entirely legal (along with Ukraine, Georgia and some American states). Foreigners can pay a Russian woman for the use of her womb. Each year Russian surrogate mothers give birth to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of babies (estimates vary wildly). And in contrast to America, the service is cheap. Nine months of gestation plus labour can be bought for around $20,000. But in the next few months or so, Russia’s parliament looks set to ban the practice, at least if the customers are foreign. “Russia is not an incubator,” says Irina Yarovaya, a deputy speaker of the Duma, Russia’s parliament.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The apparent

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Naci Agbal tries to restore monetary discipline in Turkey

March 18, 2021

Mar 18th 2021ISTANBULNACI AGBAL deserves a pat on the back. In only a few months as Turkey’s central-bank governor, he has breathed new life into his country’s currency, bolstered the bank’s reputation and started to replenish its coffers.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The lira had a terrible 2020, losing nearly 20% of its dollar value. Among emerging-market currencies, only the Argentine peso and the Brazilian real fared worse. This year it was by far the strongest of the bunch until late February, when a spike in US treasury yields, a possible harbinger of higher borrowing costs in America, prompted a sell-off of Turkish assets.Mr Agbal has come up with the right remedy. When he took over last November, the

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Germany’s Christian Democrats are losing patience with their leader

March 18, 2021

Mar 18th 2021BERLINTHE EXCUSES were plentiful as Germany’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) slumped to two of their worst-ever state-election defeats on March 14th. The party was up against popular incumbents in Green-led Baden-Württemberg and in Rhineland-Palatinate, run by the Social Democrats (SPD). The CDU’s state chapters had chosen weak candidates. And anyway Armin Laschet (pictured), the party’s leader, had said before the votes that state elections have their own character. National politics is another matter entirely.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.All true. Yet there is no disguising the malaise that has descended on Germany’s ruling party. Bad enough on their own, the election results

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How the British became the new Turks

March 18, 2021

Mar 20th 2021LIFE IN BRUSSELS has become all too exciting for British diplomats. Before Brexit, they needed the patience to haggle over boring, intricate policy. Now they find a knack for bellicosity more useful. Since completing its departure from the EU at the start of the year, the British government has launched into scraps with its erstwhile colleagues. It began by refusing to offer ambassadorial status to the EU’s man in London. It then unilaterally overrode parts of its agreement on Northern Ireland, sparking apoplexy at the European Commission, which accused it of breaking international law. As a backdrop, British MPs accuse their European peers of vaccine nationalism, after the EU brought in export controls on jabs made in the bloc. Allegations of hypocrisy and even malevolence

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Italy’s new prime minister upends the country’s political parties

March 11, 2021

Mar 13th 2021ROMEIN THE DAYS when Italy’s former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, saw himself as an instrument of creative destruction, he revelled in the nickname il rottamatore, the Demolition Man. Today, that title is more applicable to Mario Draghi, the technocrat Mr Renzi boasts of manoeuvring into the premiership. Restrained and courteous, Mr Draghi is an unlikely wrecker. Yet his arrival has so far split the biggest party in parliament, the Five Star Movement (M5S), and pitched the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) into leaderless disarray.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The trouble began as soon as Mr Draghi sought parliament’s endorsement of his broad coalition. Though the Five Stars’ leaders had opted to

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European censuses are being disrupted by covid-19

March 11, 2021

Mar 13th 2021IT IS TIME for Europeans to stand up and be counted. Every ten years most European countries hold a census, generally in years ending with a “1”. Britain seems to have started the tradition, back in 1801, and its own decennial stock-take will take place (except in Scotland) next weekend. Before covid-19, there were not many surprises. This year, thanks to the pandemic, there will be shocks and problems galore.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Everywhere more people than expected have died in the past year. Fewer babies are being conceived. Many migrant workers and foreign students have gone home. It is harder for census-takers to count people, because of social distancing. And it will be harder for

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The many colours of German coalitions

March 11, 2021

Mar 13th 2021BERLINASSEMBLING COALITIONS in Germany was once a simple affair. Power alternated between the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU, with its Bavarian ally, the CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) or Greens in support. Colourful names occasionally emerged for other governing arrangements: “Jamaica” for coalitions uniting the CDU, Greens and FDP—the parties’ colours match the island’s flag—or “traffic light” for the SPD, FDP and Greens. For years these exotic amalgams mainly fuelled the fever dreams of political scientists. More recently, political fragmentation and Germany’s federal system, in which 16 states churn through their own governments, have made them flesh.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the

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A protracted swell of cases highlights Europe’s vaccine problems

March 11, 2021

Mar 13th 2021PARISTHE WORLD is split into three types of covid-19 countries. The first consists of those with lots of recent cases countered by vigorous vaccination campaigns: America and Britain, for example. The second includes the likes of Australia, Japan and China, with few vaccines but few cases to worry about. The last is made up of places with lots of new cases but little vaccination. Continental Europe is the only big, rich region in that unfortunate ward. (Much of Latin America is in a similar spot, and data are patchy in many poor countries.) It is an unexpected outcome for a continent that thought it had managed the first phase of the pandemic rather well.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.About a

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Why leave the EU, when you can shape it instead?

March 11, 2021

Mar 13th 2021I N 2017, ANY voters who wanted to follow Britain out of the EU had options. In the run-up to elections that spring, Geert Wilders, a bizarrely coiffured advocate of “Nexit”, was level at the top of polls in the Netherlands. A few months later Marine Le Pen reached the second round of the French presidential election on a policy of taking the country out of the euro and the EU itself. In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Northern League, attacked Mario Draghi, then the boss of Europe’s central bank, as an “accomplice” to the “massacre” of Italy’s economy. The party dangled the prospect of Italy’s departure from the euro and even the EU itself.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Skip forward four

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How the Kremlin outwitted Amnesty International

March 4, 2021

Mar 6th 2021ON MARCH 1ST Russian news announced that Alexei Navalny was moving to a new prison, Penal Colony No. 2, notorious for psychological torture. Two days later his lawyers found him in a different, and less ghastly, jail. Russia’s justice system likes to keep people guessing.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The Kremlin says Mr Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader, is a common criminal, as well as being a Western agent. Its propagandists tout his (plainly bogus) fraud conviction. Their struggle to convict him in the court of public opinion has received a boost from an unlikely source: Amnesty International, a global human-rights group.On February 23rd Amnesty said it had decided to stop calling Mr

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Armenia’s army turns on its prime minister

March 4, 2021

Mar 4th 2021YerevanFOR A MAN in his own army’s cross-hairs, Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian prime minister, seems unfazed. As long as the Armenian people have the final say, “there will be no coup,” he told The Economist this week. The only way out of the crisis consuming his country, he says, leads through the ballot box and early elections.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.There are no tanks on the street in Yerevan. But Mr Pashinyan is fighting for his political life. On February 25th dozens of officers, including the country’s top soldier, Onik Gasparyan, demanded the prime minister’s resignation, accusing him of incompetence. Mr Pashinyan called this an attempted coup, refused to step down and ordered Mr

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