By Astghik Bedevian
The Armenian authorities will face a popular “revolution” if they try to rig next spring’s parliamentary elections, the leader of the country’s most radical opposition party claimed on Friday.
“In the event of free elections the opposition will get no less than 70 percent of the vote because the people are not quite delighted with their rulers,” Aram Sarkisian of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party told RFE/RL. “If the opposition does not win, there will be a revolution.”
“We will take to the streets and make a revolution. We will not leave the streets this time around,” he said.
The Armenian opposition’s most recent attempt to topple the government ended in failure in spring 2004 due to poor attendance of its Yerevan rallies and a tough government response. Opposition parties and Hanrapetutyun in particular similarly failed to pull large crowds in the wake of a disputed constitutional referendum in November last year.
Sarkisian insisted, however, that the opposition will now be far more successful. “We have learned from our mistakes, unlike the authorities,” he said.
Sarkisian’s self-confidence is shared by other oppositionists but sharply contrasts with the dominant mood among pro-establishment politicians and some independent commentators. They say the ruling regime is well placed to again make the most of its government levers and vast financial resources to retain control of the National Assembly.
“There has been no such favorable moment for the authorities during our 15-year history,” said Manuk Gasparian, an independent parliamentarian. “I won’t be surprised if they win the elections without large-scale ballot stuffing.”
But another top opposition leader, Artashes Geghamian, angrily rejected this assertion. “Armenian voters will understand what a smear campaign is being conducted by wretched politicians sponsored by the government,” Geghamian told RFE/RL. “I am convinced that the opposition will win a majority as a result of the upcoming parliamentary elections.”
The Armenian leadership’s task is further facilitated by continuing bickering among opposition leaders. It is still not clear whether any new opposition alliances will be formed ahead of the 2007 elections.