By Karine Kalantarian
Vazgen Manukian, a prominent voice of moderation within the Armenian opposition, launched on Friday a blistering attack against the authorities, calling for “public mobilization” for regime change.
He described the ruling establishment as a clique of “plunderers” who are “at war” with the rest of the country’s population.
“A fierce struggle is underway in Armenia between two human types: our type and their type,” which is leading the nation to ruin, Manukian told a congress of his National Democratic Union (AZhM) party.
“Unless there is a mobilization of our type [of people] who will fight for the future of the country, the country will not change,” he said. “And as the AZhM leader, I set the task of mobilization before the AZhM.”
Asked by one of the delegates whether that means he supports a popular uprising against President Robert Kocharian, Manukian replied: “It depends not only on ourselves. It also depends on the extent of the opposite side’s resistance. If we consolidate, the opposite side will have two options: either to provoke a revolution or retreat. God willing, we will have revolutionary change without a revolution.”
The remarks contrasted with Manukian’s earlier skepticism about pledges by more radical opposition leaders to stage a “revolution” in Armenia. The AZhM leader, who served as Armenia’s premier and defense minister in the early 1990s, said recently that he believes Kocharian and his governing coalition will manage to complete their constitutionally defined terms in office.
Interestingly, Manukian drew praise from senior representatives of two coalition parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Orinats Yerkir, who were present at the AZhM gathering. They both wishes the AZhM success in their speeches. It was not clear if they agreed with Manukian’s assessment of the situation in the country.
Also in attendance were other senior opposition figures, notably Aram Sarkisian of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic). Sarkisian, who leads the most radical opposition group, appeared to agree with Manukian, saying that opposition parties need the backing of other sections of Armenian society in order to succeed.
Among other prominent individuals attending the event was Samvel Babayan, the controversial former commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh army. Babayan is now said to be sympathetic to Manukian. But he on Friday reaffirmed his stated neutrality in the Armenian political standoff.