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Dashnak Leader Threatens ‘Regime Change’ Drive


Armenia -- Hrant Markarian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, speaking at a forum in Yerevan, 08 Oct., 2009

Armenia -- Hrant Markarian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, speaking at a forum in Yerevan, 08 Oct., 2009

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) will campaign for President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation if he signs controversial normalization agreements with Turkey, a leader of the nationalist party warned on Thursday.

Dashnaktsutyun, which was represented in Armenia’s ruling coalition until April, has so far refrained from seeking to unseat Sarkisian despite its harsh criticism of the two Turkish-Armenian protocols finalized by Ankara and Yerevan. It has instead proposed several amendments to the documents and tried to prevent their unconditional ratification by parliament.

“We will fight and are even ready to find a way out with the authorities,” said Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s top decision-making body. “But if we don’t meet with a corresponding attitude, we will not hesitate to go to the end, to go for regime change.”

“Regime change is not an end in itself and we will not opt for replacing the bad by the worse,” he said in a speech at a conference on Turkish-Armenian relations organized by his party in Yerevan. “It is about time our people brought to power, in a conscious and organized fashion, a force which it will have no reason to quickly get rid of.”

Vahan Hovannisian, another Dashnaktsutyun leader, was more cautious in that regard. “I can’t predict yet what will happen,” he told RFE/RL. “Our steps will depend on the situation that will shape up with regard to the signing and ratification [of the protocols.]”

Also threatening to push for leadership change is the Zharangutyun party, another major opposition force strongly objecting to the fence-mending agreements. Its top leader, Raffi Hovannisian, said on Thursday that their signing by Yerevan “would create the need for fresh presidential elections.” “And if the parliament ratifies those protocols it too will have to look to fresh elections,” he told RFE/RL.

Dashnaktsutyun, Zharangutyun and a dozen other, smaller parties will jointly rally supporters in Yerevan on Friday in protest against the Turkish-Armenian deal. Hovannisian acknowledged that they face an uphill task in mounting the kind of massive street protests that would be taken seriously by the authorities.

“Of course, [the people] are indifferent, feel alienated because of the democratic deficit, because of seeing their votes repeatedly stolen and rigged. This is a serious problem,” he said, adding that the only way to solve it is to consolidate all major political groups opposed to Sarkisian.

The most influential and radical of them, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), has refused to join the Dashnaktsutyun-led campaign, citing the nationalist opposition’s reluctance to place Sarkisian’s ouster on top of its agenda. HAK leaders say Dashnaktsutyun still retains close ties with the government “Because they have been benefiting from the largess of the illegitimate authorities for ten years,” one of them, Aleksandr Arzumanian, claimed on Thursday.

“Look at how many times they entered and left [the opposition camp.] They get out [of the government] and become opposition before every election,” he said.

Arzumanian went as far as to accuse Dashnaktsutyun of exploiting the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey for furthering its vested interests. “For those people, genocide recognition is a business,” he charged. “So is the Armenian Cause.”
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