By Irina Hovannisian
More than a hundred intellectuals sympathetic to the Armenian opposition called on Friday for a popular uprising against the government which they claimed is “illegitimate” and infested with “criminal elements.”
A joint statement adopted by them at a conference urged Armenians to “declare war on this regime and return power seized by criminal traitors to the people.” They accused the authorities of planning to rig next year’s parliamentary election.
The militant activists also said their anti-government group called Intellectual Forum is joining the “anti-criminal movement” launched by 15 opposition parties the previous night. In a joint declaration, the parties expressed concern at what they see as a growing “criminalization” of the government and the political scene.
Intellectual Forum leaders had earlier pledged to name those government officials who they believe have underworld connections. However, their angry statement mentioned only President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
“These two men have effectively usurped power,” a leader of the group, Rafael Ghazarian, told RFE/RL. “They have not been legitimate since [the presidential election of] 2003.”
Asked to name the alleged “criminal elements,” Ghazarian singled out Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian, Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian and even Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian. “He is simply a criminal element,” he said of Abrahamian. “He has no right to hold any state post.”
The latest opposition accusations have already been dismissed by the Armenian authorities and their supporters. In a joint statement last week, a group of other prominent intellectuals mostly supportive of the Armenian leadership described the verbal attacks as an “attempt to undermine our statehood.” They alleged that Intellectual Forum is being manipulated by unspecified opposition leaders collaborating with foreign intelligence services.