By Emil Danielyan
The Armenian opposition announced late Friday yet another postponement of its promised “decisive” offensive against the government, effectively admitting its failure so far to boost attendance at its rallies and promising to “rethink” its strategy.
Opposition leaders assured several thousand supporters in Yerevan that their two-month campaign against President Robert Kocharian will resume with a fresh momentum two weeks later. They also remained uncompromising in demanding Kocharian’s resignation.
“We reaffirm our resolve to continue our struggle for the establishment of democracy and the rule of law in Armenia,” the Artarutyun bloc and the National Unity Party (AMK) said in a statement read out to the crowd.
“During these two weeks we will completely reassess the situation, regroup our forces and starting from June 4 will hold permanent rallies, marches and sit-ins until Robert Kocharian’s resignation,” Artarutyun’s Albert Bazeyan said.
The opposition leaders said during their previous unsanctioned rally on May 14 that they will stage another march towards Kocharian’s official residence on the city’s Marshal Baghramian Avenue if they mobilize “a critical mass of supporters.” One of them, Victor Dallakian, admitted on Friday that they have yet to achieve that.
“If all of the people standing here stay [on Marshal Baghramian Avenue] throughout the night there will be a critical mass,” Dallakian told RFE/RL. “But they won’t. We must make sure they do. Everything must be well prepared.”
“We will go [to the presidential palace] only once,” he added.
The opposition supporters already marched up the avenue but were stopped from approaching Kocharian’s residence by heavily armed riot police on April 12. There were still between 2,000 and 3,000 of them on the street in the early hours of April 13 when the protest was violently broken up by baton-wielding security forces using water cannons, stun grenades and, according to some eyewitnesses, electric-shock equipment. Scores of demonstrators were arrested and seriously injured.
Artarutyun and the AMK have since repeatedly promised to lay another siege to the presidential palace, but have avoided doing that so far. Some local commentators have concluded that their campaign has lost momentum. But the opposition leaders disagreed, with Bazeyan claiming that the street protests have weakened the ruling regime and Dallakian alleging that Kocharian is “widely hated” by the population.
Another prominent oppositionist, Aram Sarkisian, sounded, as always, even more self-confident. “Dear people, I wish you patience. We will indeed remove Kocharian with our rallies and his departure is imminent,” he said.