By Hrach Melkumian
A last-minute disappearance of loudspeakers, blamed on law-enforcement authorities, nearly disrupted on Friday a regular rally by the Armenian opposition which continues to dispute the official results of last month’s presidential election.
The protest went ahead after its organizers found two hand-held megaphones which made speeches barely audible to the crowd of several thousand supporters of opposition candidate Stepan Demirchian.
Opposition leaders said a truck laden with the powerful amplifiers used by them for nearly two months was stopped and seized by traffic police on its way to Yerevan’s famous museum of ancient manuscripts, the venue for anti-government demonstrations. Demirchian called police actions “petty hooliganism.”
“The people continue to show their strength, while the authorities their weakness,” he told the protesters.
Hovannes Varian, a deputy chief of the Armenian Police who watched the rally from a distance, refused to confirm or deny police involvement in the disappearance of the equipment rented by the Demirchian-led opposition from a private firm.
Opposition leaders responded to that with defiant speeches. “We can hold rallies even without the loudspeakers,” said Aram Sarkisian. “They can only be more powerful and continuous.”
“This incident was aimed at preventing our upcoming activities,” said Albert Bazeyan. “Rest assured that we remain determined to continue our struggle until the resignation of Robert Kocharian and his regime.”
Like the previous gatherings, Friday’s rally was not sanctioned by the city authorities. Earlier this week several opposition leaders were summoned to the prosecutor’s office in Yerevan and told that the protests are illegal. The city prosecutors threatened unspecified legal consequences.
The opposition leaders, meanwhile, announced that their next rally will take place on April 9 during Kocharian’s scheduled inauguration for a second five-year term in office. It is not yet known whether they will tell supporters to march to a government building where the inauguration ceremony is due to take place.
The main focus of opposition efforts is the Constitutional Court which is now considering Demirchian’s appeal against the official results of the March 5 presidential run-off which gave Kocharian a landslide victory. In a statement read out to the protesters, the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance led by Demirchian urged the court to declare the “falsified elections” invalid.
(Photolur photo: Aram Sarskisian speaking to the crowd.)