By Anna Saghabalian and Narek Galstian
Two of Armenia’s most radical opposition leaders pledged on Monday to make another attempt to stage an “revolution” next year, saying they are undaunted by the failure of the latest opposition campaign anti-government street protests.
Aram Karapetian and Aram Sarkisian also reaffirmed their and their allies’ intention to set up a new umbrella structure that will coordinate their activities. Citing the authorities’ handling of the recent constitutional referendum, they reiterated their belief that the next presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia can not be democratic without regime change.
“Those elections would be just as disgraceful,” Karapetian told a conference of his Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party. “In my view, they would simply fix numbers without even stuffing ballots.”
Karapetian said the opposition should therefore prepare for another, better organized campaign against the administration of President Robert Kocharian in 2006. “There is no other way of achieving change in Armenia,” he said.
Sarkisian made a similar point in a speech delivered at the gathering. “I have always been a proponent of resolute actions,” he said in a separate weekend interview with RFE/RL.
Sarkisian, Karapetian and several other prominent oppositionists have already tried to use the disputed November 27 referendum for stirring up a popular movement against the authorities. The effort failed due to poor attendance of their rallies held in Yerevan, exposing widespread popular disillusionment with the country’s political elite.
Manuk Gasparian, an outspoken independent lawmaker who also addressed the Nor Zhamanakner congress, lambasted the leaders of the opposition coalition for their failure to pull big crowds. “If even two thirds of members of your parties came to the rallies, you would have a 50,000-strong crowd,” he said. “Why didn’t you bring along your activists?”
The radical opposition leaders now hope to attract greater popular support with a more broad-based organizational structure similar to one that led the 1988 movement for Karabakh’s reunification with Armenia. “There are persons who don’t want join a party and this their right,” explained Sarkisian. “These are the kind of people we are trying to attract.”
But other opposition leaders, notably the top leader of Armenia’s largest opposition alliance, Stepan Demirchian, do not like the idea. They are also skeptical about their allies’ chances of mobilizing the disgruntled masses before the next parliamentary election due in 2007.
Sarkisian, however, claimed that the size of opposition crowds is a “relative” concept. “Nobody, for example, thought that revolution would be possible in a country like Kyrgyzstan,” he said. “But it was done by 3,000 people. I’m sure the same can be done in Armenia with 2,000 people. What matters is the spirit and resolve of people taking to the streets.”
(Photolur photo: Aram Karapetian.)