The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) pledged to step up its campaign against the controversial Turkish-Armenian agreements but again refrained from demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation as it rallied more than two thousand supporters in Yerevan on Friday.
Leaders of the hard-line opposition party stressed that they will seek to unseat Sarkisian only if they fail to prevent the agreements’ ratification by the Armenian parliament. The crowd chanted “No! No!” and waved banners saying “No concessions to the Turks” as they and leaders of several other opposition parties reiterated their strong condemnation of the deal.
Only one speaker, Stepan Safarian of the Zharangutyun party, directly attacked the Armenian president, saying that his ouster is “one of the possible ways out of this situation.” Virtually all other orators singled out Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian for criticism.
“We are saying, ‘Don’t concede!’” said Armen Rustamian, the nominal head of Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia. “That’s an explicit demand. That is not a resignation demand yet. But it could logically develop into a resignation demand.”
Rustamian said his party’s key objective is to “expand this struggle” and mount a “popular movement” that would force the Armenian authorities to abrogate the protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey. “If these authorities can’t do that, then a new government must be formed,” he said. “A new National Assembly, a new president, a new government.”
According to Vahan Hovannisian, another Dashnaktsutyun leader, the immediate target of the campaign will be “many” pro-presidential members of Armenia’s parliament who he said oppose the deal but are “scared” of voting against its ratification. “We will compel them to reckon with our will,” he told the demonstrators.
“We are going on offensive, we are going to attack,” Hovannisian said without elaboration.
Rustamian cautioned, however, that the nationalist party will stick to “constitutional and legal methods” of political struggle. “We will not lead our people to adventures,” he said. “Our every step will be responsible and calculated.”
Dashnaktsutyun and over a dozen other like-minded parties that formed a loose coalition earlier month have condemned the protocols as a sellout. They are particularly opposed to its provisions that commit Armenia to recognizing its existing border with Turkey and agreeing to a joint study of the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Rustamian spent a large part of his speech rounding on former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more radical and influential opposition force, for portraying Dashnaktsutyun’s cautious stance against President Sarkisian as proof of its lingering ties with the government. “Why are they trying to force us to put the carriage ahead of the horse?” he said. “Let them not hinder us.”
The Dashnaktsutyun leader also questioned the sincerity of the HAK’s stated opposition to the agreements, implicitly alluding to Ter-Petrosian’s past conciliatory policy on Turkey. “They should have fought, instead of stepping aside,” he said, referring to the recent suspension of the HAK’s regular anti-government rallies in Yerevan.