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By Astghik Bedevian
Two prominent opposition leaders launched over the weekend what they described as a broad-based civic movement that will strive to transform Armenia into a democratic and rule-of-law state.

Vazgen Manukian, a veteran oppositionist who headed the country’s first post-Communist government in 1990-91, and former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian held the founding conference of the movement attended by hundreds of supporters and representatives of other opposition groups.

Both men again insisted that the anti-government initiative is not a prelude to the establishment of an electoral alliance. They said they are only trying to end widespread popular apathy which the Armenian opposition says facilitates erosion of civil liberties and a repeat of fraudulent elections.

“We want to build a rule-of-law state where the citizen is the king, where the citizen is free and proud,” Hovannisian said in his speech at the gathering.

“Our aim is to rally the entire society around a number of simple principles,” Manukian told reporters. “First of all, I believe that there is no constitution in Armenia. We live under a constitution which has been twice rigged, and disdain for laws stems from that.”

The initiative was welcomed by several prominent public figures and other opposition leaders that attended the conference. “Even in the most remote village, nobody feels protected by the state,” said Larisa Alaverdian, Armenia’s former human rights ombudswoman. “Human rights are violated everywhere, on a daily basis and in all spheres.”

It remained unclear, however, what concrete actions the movement’s leaders will take in the run-up to next spring’s parliamentary elections. Manukian and Hovannisian said only that they plan to hold rallies and meetings across the country in the coming months. They also urged other major opposition parties and non-governmental organizations to join the initiative. “Either we will fight together or will have no achievements,” said Hovannisian.

(Photolur photo: Hovannisian addresses the conference.)
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