By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s leading opposition parties announced on Thursday the launch of a joint movement against what they see as rising crime and growing presence of “criminal elements” in government.
A joint declaration signed by 15 parties after a series of meetings deplores the “criminalization of the political field” and warns of a “loss of Armenian statehood.” “Citizens of the Republic of Armenia are unprotected in their own country,” it says. “Innocent people fall victim to periodical murders.”
The opposition accusations followed a recent wave of high-profile murders and an influx of influential individuals with questionable reputations into the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The accusations are shrugged off by the Armenian government and its allies who argue that the country’s crime rate is still one of the lowest in the former Soviet Union. They have also condemned those who consider new HHK recruits criminals.
Opposition leaders involved in the initiative earlier pledged to name concrete government-connected individuals guilty of illegal acts. But their declaration mentions only President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. “Criminal acts in the country are committed with the connivance and direct encouragement of the Robert Kocharian-Serzh Sarkisian duo,” it says.
What exactly the newly formed “anti-criminal movement” plans to do is unclear. “Our task now is to show the public that a large part of the government is criminalized,” said Aram Karapetian, the leader of the Nor Zhamanakner party and the movement’s main initiator.
“We have not gathered just to inform the public,” clarified another oppositionist, Hovannes Hovannisian. The new opposition grouping will come up with a plan of relevant actions soon, he said.
Karapetian admitted that the opposition has yet to begin debating that plan.