By Gevorg Stamboltsian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian opposition remains committed to regime change but has to rethink its tactics which failed to unseat President Robert Kocharian last spring, some of its leaders said on Monday.
“Since the spring wave of [anti-Kocharian] demonstrations we have engaged in very serious deliberations, have drawn conclusions from our mistakes and will consequently subject our tactics to some changes,” Artashes Geghamian, the leader of the opposition National Unity Party (AMK), told RFE/RL.
The comments were echoed by Hrant Khachatrian, a senior member of the AMK’s top ally, the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance. “We now have a very shaky balance based on consequences of the use of force by the authorities and the opposition’s search for new methods of struggle,” he said. “It is evident that both the authorities and the opposition need to change their tactics.”
Artarutyun and the AMK , Armenia’s opposition groups, refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Kocharian’s reelection last year and jointly attempted to force him into resignation with a three-month campaign of street protests in Yerevan and other parts of the country. The campaign, denounced as unconstitutional by the authorities, fizzled out following the violent break-up of an opposition march towards the presidential palace on the night from April 12 to April 13.
Geghamian said the opposition’s failure to organize more “decisive action” left may of its supporters disappointed. “If we take to the streets it will be one or two rallies resulting in regime change,” he said. “We should not call up people once a week or once in ten days, even if that allows them to hear the truth.”
“The struggle must take place on all fronts and not just take the form of rallies,” agreed another Artarutyun leader, Shavarsh Kocharian.
Geghamian and Artarutyun leaders would not say whether another opposition campaign for regime change should be expected this fall. Nor did they comment on government calls for an end to the seven-month opposition boycott of sessions of the Armenian parliament. Geghamian said his party will discuss its further actions later this month.
In a further sign of continuing lack of opposition interest in the National Assembly, the main opposition candidate announced at the weekend his withdrawal from an upcoming parliamentary by-election in a constituency in central Armenia. The candidate, Khachik Simonian of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, said in a statement that the vote will not be free and fair, accusing his two main pro-government rivals of already manipulating the process.
“In essence, there is no political struggle in that electoral district. Instead we have a clan warfare involving two government factions,” said Suren Sureniants, the spokesman for Hanrapetutyun, a major Artarutyun force. He urged local people to concentrate instead on “the restoration of constitutional order” -- the opposition euphemism for regime change in Yerevan.
The by-election slated for August 29 will thus amount to a showdown between the candidates representing the Orinats Yerkir Party of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and a nominally apolitical organization controlled by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian. Both candidates have been running expensive campaigns and the outcome of the race is unpredictable.
(Photolur photo: Artashes Geghamian.)