By Emil Danielyan
The Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party and two other radical opposition groups rallied several thousand supporters in Yerevan on Thursday, telling them to gear up for anti-government demonstrations expected to follow the May 12 parliamentary elections.
They dismissed President Robert Kocharian’s warnings not to dispute the official vote results which will likely give his political allies a comfortable majority in the next National Assembly.
Meeting with university students in Yerevan last week, Kocharian warned that fresh opposition attempts to force him into resignation would meet with a tough government response. He also said the vast majority of Armenians oppose the kind of post-election “colored revolutions” that toppled the ruling regimes in neighboring Georgia and other former Soviet republics.
“The fact that so many of you are here is the reason why Robert Kocharian rushed to Yerevan State University and gave a speech there,” Hanrapetutyun leader Aram Sarkisian said in a speech at the rally in central Yerevan jointly held by his party, Aram Karapetian’s Nor Zhamanakner Party and the Impeachment bloc led by supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Sarkisian claimed that Kocharian is scared of the prospect of opposition protests. “Kocharian has developed a tradition. As soon as he experiences fear he goes to YSU to appeal to the people,” he said. “He is also trying to intimidate all of us.”
Sarkisian, Karapetian and other speakers would not specify what exactly they will do if the elections fall short of democratic standards, promising to shed more light on their plans at another gathering scheduled for next Thursday.
“If they again ignore our will, if they trample on our rights, if they again look down on us, we will have one thing to do,” said Sarkisian. “We will rise up and gather in this square on May 13 … We will march ahead of you, we won’ hesitate, we won’t run away, we won’t get scared.”
Armenia’s leading opposition forces, including Hanrapetutyun, had already tried to replicate the ex-Soviet democratic revolutions three years ago. But their joint campaign failed not least because of poor attendance of their rallies.
The rally held by the three radical opposition groups is apparently the biggest pre-election gathering held in Armenia so far. Speaking to RFE/RL, Sarkisian seemed confident that they will pull larger crowds in the coming weeks.
“We definitely expect that the people will increasingly participate in our rallies,” he said. “Every rally we hold is bigger than the previous one, which makes me really happy.”