By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s main opposition alliance took its election campaign to Yerevan on Friday, promising several thousand supporters that it will launch impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharian if it wins a majority in the next parliament.
“If we win the elections our first step will be the restoration of constitutional order in our country,” declared Albert Bazeyan, a leader of the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc. “That means the removal of the illegitimate president from power. Thank God, the National Assembly has such authority.”
Artarutyun is an alliance of a dozen opposition parties that have rallied around Stepan Demirchian, Kocharian’s main challenger in this year’s presidential election. The dramatic vote, which was tainted with reported instances of fraud, still features large in the discourse of Demirchian and his opposition allies. They view the upcoming legislative polls as a an opportunity to keep up pressure on Kocharian whose reelection they refuse to recognize.
“Forget about the fact that Robert Kocharian was declared reelected,” Bazeyan told the rally. “His positions today are much weaker than they were before the elections.”
Another Artarutyun leader, Shavarsh Kocharian, drew parallels between the current president and his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrosian, who was forced to resign 16 months after his equally controversial reelection in September 1996. “Kocharian has found himself in a situation Levon Ter-Petrosian was in after 1996,” he said.
The opposition speakers also hailed the final report by election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which reaffirmed their strong criticism of the authorities’ handling of the presidential ballot. Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president) called it an “ultimatum” to the ruling regime, while Artarutyun’s campaign manager, Stepan Zakarian, described it as a “big blow to Robert Kocharian.”
The Demirchian alliance has stated repeatedly that it will win the May 25 elections if they are free and fair. According to opinion polls published in Armenian newspapers so far, it is the most popular of parties and blocs running for the National Assembly.