By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian
The three political parties making up Armenia’s coalition government warned on Friday that opposition attempts to topple President Robert Kocharian by “unconstitutional” means will be countered with force.
“The coalition declares that attempts to violate the country’s constitutional law and order must be prevented with a resolute and adequate reaction from competent bodies,” they said in a joint statement read out by the somber-looking leaders of their parliamentary factions.
The warning highlighted mounting political tensions in Armenia in the run-up to a campaign of anti-Kocharian demonstrations planned by the country’s two main opposition groups for the beginning of next month. It also reflected the authorities’ fears that widespread disaffection with living conditions could translate into a massive popular support of the opposition push for power.
Kocharian has already carried out a sweeping reshuffle of his security apparatus. The statement by the Republican, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties added to speculation that he is ready to use force to disperse hostile crowds if they threaten his grip on power.
“The government is formed by means of elections, not during the period between elections,” it reads. “Any attempt to draw the country into fresh electoral processes could imperil the security of our state which is faced with numerous challenges.”
The opposition Artarutyun alliance and National Unity Party insist that the 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections, which kept Kocharian and his allies in power, were rigged by the authorities. They say the ruling regime is therefore “illegitimate.”
Ending months of wrangling, the two opposition forces decided this week to join forces in their drive for regime change. “We will act in a united front for regime change and popular salvation from this deplorable situation,” the National Unity leader, Artashes Geghamian, said as he campaigned in the central Aragatsotn region on Friday. The opposition will hold its first “pan-national rally” between April 5 and April 13, he said.
The coalition parties accused the opposition of exploiting the population’s grave socioeconomic problems for political aims. They said it is the government that has “realistic programs” of addressing them. “The coalition is determined and consistent in solving the problems facing the country, and 2004 will be a decisive year for delivering on pre-election promises,” the statement says.
(Photolur photo: Leaders of the coalition parties issuing the warning.)