By Astghik Bedevian and Ruzanna Stepanian
Armenia’s most radical opposition party plotting a post-election “democratic revolution” claimed on Tuesday to be secretly financed by unnamed government officials and government-connected businessmen.
“They have asked not to be identified for now,” Smbat Ayvazian, a leader of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, told RFE/RL. “Maybe we will able to disclose their names in 20 days.”
“Realizing that the country is on the wrong track, they are giving us, albeit with a lot of fear, some financial assistance so that we can run our campaign offices, train our proxies and solve some propaganda issues,” he said. “Perhaps the fears of those businessmen and officials will disappear with the change of the current political atmosphere.”
Hanrapetutyun kicked off its election campaign last Thursday with a rally in Yerevan, during which it urged supporters to gear up for a campaign of anti-government demonstrations that could follow the May 12 parliamentary elections. Its chairman Aram Sarkisian and other leaders claimed that the vote will almost certainly be rigged.
Ayvazian repeated their assertions that Hanrapetutyun will not content itself with a handful of parliament seats as its key aim is regime change. “The opposition has had 25-30 deputies in the current [131-member] parliament but failed to solve a single issue,” he argued.
Ayvazian added that the alleged funding by government-linked wealthy individuals is essential for the realization of Hanrapetutyun’s plans. “In case our financial issues are solved, it is evident that these authorities will have no chance to keep plundering the country,” he said.
Hanrapetutyun’s radical agenda is clearly not shared by other, larger opposition parties that believe it is possible to prevent large-scale fraud. The Orinats Yerkir Party of former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian is one of them.
“I can’t claim that there will certainly be mass falsifications,” Baghdasarian said on Tuesday. “I will be talk about that in early May. The election campaign has only just begun, and we are still in the process of analyzing and examining things.”
But Baghdasarian did accuse the authorities of creating “numerous obstacles” to Orinats Yerkir’s election campaign. He complained in particular that the party is unable to place campaign billboards in Yerevan and other parts of the country.
“They say there is no space,” he told a news conference. “But you can see that the campaign billboards in Yerevan belong to the Republican Party, the Prosperous Armenia Party, and Dashnaktsutyun. The governing parties do not face any obstacles.”
The ex-speaker also claimed that authorities in small towns across the country are obstructing campaign meetings organized by Orinats Yerkir.
(Photolur photo: Ayvazian, left, and Sarkisian pictured during Hanrapetutyun's April 12 rally.)