By Shakeh Avoyan and Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian opposition told supporters to prepare for another push for power on Tuesday as it marked the first anniversary of a major anti-government demonstration in Yerevan that was controversially dispersed by security forces.
Opposition leaders also lashed out at President Robert Kocharian who suggested on Monday that they are suffering from an inferiority complex vis-à-vis their more successful counterparts in other ex-Soviet states. He said the oppositionists should overcome this feeling by coming to terms with his “strong and efficient” rule.
“I see only a complex of illegitimacy,” Stepan Demirchian, the top leader of the Artarutyun alliance, commented sarcastically. “You just can’t get rid of that complex. Yesterday’s speech proved that.”
“According to this regime, a strong and efficient government is the one which can use force against its own people,” Demirchian told RFE/RL. “This is the organized state he likes to talk about. [It means] organized falsifications, organized repressions, organized corruption. This is the essence of this regime.”
“A man who ambushes and beats up parliament deputies outside the National Assembly building must have more complexes,” said Artashes Geghamian, the outspoken leader of the National Unity Party (AMK).
“We will soon carry out regime change in Armenia and will never repeat the mistakes committed by this government,” he told RFE/RL.
Meeting with students at Yerevan State University, Kocharian claimed that there are no prerequisites for a Western-backed revolution in Armenia because his government has been presiding over robust economic growth. Still, he revealed that even his wife thinks the official macroeconomic statistics may be misleading. “My wife told me ahead of this meeting yesterday, ‘Don’t talk much about that growth, you get criticized for that’,” he said.
“Those who advised him not to talk about economic miracles are right,” Demirchian noted tartly. “He should have taken their advice.”
Kocharian faced even more fierce attacks in parliament where Artarutyun and AMK deputies marked the anniversary of the opposition protest in Yerevan with a barrage of angry speeches.
Riot police used water cannons, stun grenades and, according to some witness accounts, electric-shock equipment to disperse more than 2,000 opposition supporters that camped on a street leading to the presidential palace on the night from April 12-13, 2004. Scores of them were beaten up and arrested by security forces that also ransacked the main offices of the two opposition groups.
The use of force was condemned as disproportionate by local and international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch. But the Armenian authorities say it was justified as the opposition attempted to overthrow them by “unconstitutional” means.
“The junta led by Kocharian tried to terrorize the people with the overnight bandit attack in April last year,” charged Artarutyun’s Victor Dallakian. “Dear compatriots, time to throw rocks has come. It is time to get together, establish justice and deal the final blow to the wobbly regime.”
Dallakian told reporters last week that Artarutyun is waiting for “the right moment” to launch another anti-Kocharian campaign. But he admitted that no fresh opposition rallies are planned for the coming weeks.
The verbal attacks prompted a stern rebuke from a parliamentarian from the government Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) who urged his opposition colleagues to remember Kocharian’s contribution to the Armenian victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. “Let us not forget that the president of the Republic of Armenia kept his family under bombs during the most difficult time for Artsakh and led Artsakh’s defense,” Levon Mkrtchian said.
(Photolur photo: Riot police blocking Yerevan's Marshal Baghramian Avenue on April 12, 2004.)