By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s leading opposition parties boycotting sessions of parliament pledged on Thursday to continue their campaign for a referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian, but shed no light on their next joint action.
“We will come back with the people and force them to fulfill the decision of the Constitutional Court,” said Victor Dallakian of the Artarutyun bloc which walked out of the National Assembly on Monday along with deputies representing the opposition National Unity Party.
“At any time and by any means the people may take power back,” Dallakian added. “That is a constitutional path.”
National Unity representatives also sounded bullish about forcing the authorities to drop their opposition to the referendum. However, neither political group came up with a plan of specific actions for the coming weeks, suggesting that they have yet to agree on how to proceed.
“I assure you that our steps are calculated, actions coordinated. As for the time frame, we will inform you as we promised in our statement,” Dallakian told reporters.
Another Artarutyun parliamentarian, Albert Bazeyan, admitted that there are tactical differences both inside the bloc and with National Unity. Bazeyan confirmed that his Hanrapetutyun party favors “more rapid actions” that would set off a “powerful wave of popular protests” against the authorities.
“It is impossible to bring about a referendum of confidence without powerful popular pressure,” he told RFE/RL.
National Unity leader Artashes Geghamian has spoken out against staging actions of “civil disobedience” for the time being. Artarutyun leader Stepan Demirchian is also believed to be more cautious than his more radical allies.
Hanrapetutyun leaders latter called late last year for a renewed campaign of anti-government demonstrations similar to the November revolution in Georgia that toppled the country’s president, Eduard Shevardnadze. Some of them mentioned February as the likely time of the protests.
Hanrapetutyun tried unsuccessfully last month to build a new, more broad-based opposition alliance around the idea. “Perhaps it would have been possible to mobilize the people in February if our initiative was accepted by other opposition forces,” Bazeyan said.
Bazeyan at the same time played down differences inside the opposition, saying that the joint boycott of parliament sessions by Artarutyun and National Unity was a “very important step.” “Assessments of the situation or actions that need be taken might be different at a certain point. But we can reach a common denominator during [further] discussions,” he said.
Meanwhile, leaders of the pro-Kocharian majority in the National Assembly, which refuses to even discuss the referendum issue, sounded untroubled by the latest opposition offensive. As one of them, Levon Mkrtchian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, put it, “There is no parliamentary crisis in Armenia for the simple reason that there is a [stable parliament] majority…and that majority continues its law-making activity.”
(Photolur photo: Dallakian, right, at a joint news coference with Grigor Harutiunian, a fellow member of the Artarutyun faction.)