By Armen Zakarian
The opposition National Accord Front (NAF) led by Ashot Manucharian, which two months ago announced plans to launch two signature collection campaigns, hopes to reach the 1,000,000 mark during September, although results so far have been modest. The NAF campaign is two pronged. In one drive the Front aims to collect enough signatures to force the resignation of President Robert Kocharian and in a second drive it aims at reversing Armentelís decision to bill clients on per-minute basis.
Manucharian, who was Interior Minister and National Security Adviser to President Levon Ter-Petrossian in early 1990s, is generally perceived as a pro-Russian politician. He has criticized the ongoing negotiations to settle the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, as a western initiative harmful to Armenia's interests.
Vartan Khachatrian, a member of the NAF's political council, told RFE/RL today that during the first stage of the campaign 50,000 signatures have been collected against Armentel's plan and 20,000 for the resignation of the president. He said that in the first case the results are "relatively better," while to force Kocharian's resignation the tabulated outcome has been "satisfactory." Khachatrian explained these as a result of the "atmosphere of fear" in the country, without much elaboration. He said that more recent results of the signature collection campaign are being currently tabulated and he expressed hope that the outcome will prove to be better.
According to Khachatrian the campaign should be concluded in September and 1,000,000 signatures are necessary. However, he did not say how the NAF hopes to reach this threshold when initial results have been modest. Nor is it clear how the NAF hopes to force President Kocharian's resignation by collecting signatures. Under the Armenian Constitution, the question of impeaching the president can only be raised by the parliament.
In addition to the signature collection campaign the NAF is conducting negotiations with the Hanrapetutyun party of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkissian, the National Unity Party and the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) to form a larger opposition alliance.
Khachatrian told RFE/RL that these negotiations have entered their final stage and the outcome will become clear by the end of August. However, he refused to elaborate on any future action plan by such an alliance, only saying that this is being discussed at the current stage and any such plan would be comprised of public actions and would probably have an impact on the correlation of forces in the parliament.