By Hrach Melkumian
Opposition leader Stepan Demirchian issued on Thursday a fresh warning to his disaffected allies that are considering breaking with his Artarutyun (Justice) alliance as he embarked on morale-boosting meetings with opposition supporters across Armenia.
Meeting with about a hundred activists of his People’s Party (HZhK), the largest of the nine parties making up the bloc, in the southern town of Artashat, Demirchian again dismissed as “empty talk” calls for a major realignment within the Armenian opposition.
“He who puts himself outside the bloc is the one who will lose,” he said, rapping on the table. “The people’s vote must be respected. The people voted for the bloc so that it fights against injustice and illegalities.”
The remark was clearly addressed to leaders of another major Artarutyun party, Hanrapetutyun, who are close to forming a new, distinctly pro-Western alliance with two opposition groups not affiliated with Demirchian’s bloc. Hanrapetutyun leaders, notably Armenia’s former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, have been buoyed by the success of the Western-backed popular revolt in Ukraine.
Demirchian, however, said that they should instead help him “make the [Artarutyun] alliance even more effective.” He again sought to put a brave face on Artarutyun’s failure to oust President Robert Kocharian with a campaign of street protests last spring, saying that regime change in Yerevan is only a matter of time.
“The opposition was not defeated. It’s just that the opposition hasn’t won yet,” he told the party faithful. “The life of every citizen is dear to us. We will achieve our goals without bloodshed.”
Demirchian, who was Kocharian’s main challenger in the 2003 presidential elections, was again vague about how the opposition intends to do that. He said only that Artarutyun plans to hold more rallies in Yerevan this spring. But it was not clear if the bloc will attempt to repeat its unsuccessful 2004 campaign.