The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Friday announced plans to campaign for leadership change in Armenia but again made clear that it is still not seeking President Serzh Sarkisian despite vehemently objecting to his rapprochement with Turkey.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, said the nationalist party still hopes that Sarkisian and his loyal parliament majority will not ratify the controversial agreements to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations.
“Why are we not demanding today that this or that one resign?” he told a news conference. “Because we still have hope and want to give our authorities a chance not to ratify those agreements. For our aim is to prevent the normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations based on those protocols.”
Rustamian, who also chairs the Armenian parliament’s foreign relations committee, claimed that Sarkisian is now less enthusiastic about the protocols than he was last month. “Wasn’t that obvious from his address?” he said, pointing to the October 10 televised remarks in which the president pledged, among other things, to continue to seek international recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Dashnaktsutyun and other critics believe that the planned creation by a Turkish-Armenian commission of historians envisaged by one of the protocols would make such recognition much more difficult to achieve. They have also condemned Yerevan for agreeing to recognize Armenia’s existing border with Turkey in return what they see as a shallow Turkish pledge to reopen the frontier.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders have repeatedly stated that they will seek to unseat Sarkisian only if the latter pushes the protocols through the National Assembly in which his governing coalition holds a solid majority. Their cautious stance has been criticized by the Armenian National Congress, a more radical opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“We are preparing for regime change,” declared Rustamian. “Regime change has a broader meaning than a resignation demand. The country has deviated from its course and everything must be changed: the president, the National Assembly, the government and all those who deal with the Turkish-Armenian protocols.”
“We are preparing for regime change with this platform. This is going to be our plan for regime change,” he added, referring to a manifesto released by Dashnaktsutyun on Friday. The 6-page document speaks of “forthcoming national elections” and reaffirms the party’s position on a wide range of internal and external challenges facing Armenia.
Rustamian declined to elaborate on the announced preparations, saying only that Dashnaktsutyun will seek to “increase our support day by day.” “Regime change can’t come out of thin air,” he said, adding that Sarkisian would quit only after he feels that “there are things worse than resignation.”