By Emil Danielyan
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian urged supporters to attend his rallies in Yerevan in much larger numbers late Friday amid signs of their dwindling enthusiasm for his opposition movement.
Ter-Petrosian pledged to unveil a new political strategy of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) at its next rally scheduled for October 17 as he campaigned for opposition candidate Ararat Zurabian’s victory in Sunday’s local election in Yerevan’s most important administrative district.
“I am kindly asking, demanding that hundreds of thousands of you take part in our October 17 rally,” he told about two thousand people who converged on the city’s Northern Avenue. “During it I will not reveal tactical secrets but will honestly and sincerely present to you the strategy of our further struggle, without hiding anything from you.”
Ter-Petrosian and his broad-based opposition alliance had pulled much larger crowds during their previous rallies held elsewhere in the city center. The HAK leader downplayed the significance of the latest opposition gathering, describing it as “Ararat Zurabian’s meeting with his voters which I had to attend.”
Ter-Petrosian and his associates had pledged to launch this month a fresh campaign of “resolute” actions aimed at toppling the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian and forcing pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections. However, they indicated on September 15 that they have opted for a more prolonged and less confrontational struggle.
This prompted suggestions that the Armenian opposition, which nearly swept to power following last February’s disputed presidential election, is running out of steam. Speakers at Zurabian’s campaign rally were anxious to disprove this view, assuring the crowd that they fill continue to take on the government.
“The movement is not dying out and will not die out,” said David Shahnazarian, a leading member of the HAK. While noting that the current “geopolitical situation” in the region does not bode well for the success of Ter-Petrosian’s movement, Shahnazarian said the opposition is awaiting “the right moment” to make another push for regime change. Its current top priorities are to win the mayoral election in Yerevan’s central Kentron district and to secure the release of more than 70 opposition members remaining in jail, he said.
Levon Zurabian, another top Ter-Petrosian aide, said on Thursday that the opposition has to make “serious corrections” in its strategy because President Sarkisian has earned strong international support with his far-reaching diplomatic overtures to Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Neither Ter-Petrosian, nor other speakers at Friday’s rally specified what those changes will be.
One of them, Aram Sarkisian, said although understands “the people’s concerns” about the future of the movement, he “can not give direct answers” to questions preoccupying them. “We can not disclose our tactical steps at this point,” he said.
(Photolur photo: Ter-Petrosian and Ararat Zurabian pictured during the rally.)