Armenia’s largest opposition group criticized the bloody popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, while drawing parallels between the Central Asian state’s deposed president and the authorities in Yerevan.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK) said it did not and does not advocate the kind of actions that enabled Kyrgyz opposition forces to topple President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and seize power.
Dozens of people were killed and hundreds of others wounded in Bishkek on Wednesday in vicious clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. Bakiyev was forced to flee the Kyrgyz capital after the protesters seized and ransacked key government buildings there.
The clashes were somewhat reminiscent of the deadly unrest that followed Armenia’s disputed presidential election of February 2008. Thousands of supporters of HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian barricaded themselves in downtown Yerevan on March 1-2 2008 after the pre-dawn break-up of their non-stop demonstrations in the city’s Liberty Square.
Ten people died and more than 200 others were injured after Armenian security forces attempted to disperse the angry crowd on March 1-2 2008. Ter-Petrosian told the protesters to disperse after the outgoing President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered army troops into the capital.
Commenting on the dramatic events in Bishkek, Levon Zurabian, a top Ter-Petrosian associate and the HAK’s central office coordinator, called the Kyrgyz people’s discontent with the ruling regime “legitimate” but disapproved of the “extreme methods” used by the local opposition. The HAK favors only “constitutional” means of political struggle, he said.
“Those smashing calls and actions are absolutely useless and, what is more, harmful to the state,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It can be said today that a serious state, a serious political system does not exist in Kyrgyzstan.”
Zurabian said the bloody regime change in Bishkek set a dangerous precedent which means “any political force can perpetrate violence or be subjected to violence at any moment.” He spoke at the same time of glaring similarities between Bakiyev and Kocharian, saying that both men must be put on an international trial.
“In both cases, the regime resorted to bloodshed,” said the opposition leader. “In both cases, it ordered [security forces] to shoot at people.”
Stepan Safarian of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, another major opposition force, also drew parallels between the Armenian and Kyrgyz authorities. “In this sense, all authoritarian regimes or regimes being close to authoritarianism, like the one in Armenia, have similarities,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
But Galust Sahakian, a leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), found such parallels “offensive to our national dignity” “There have been no such events in our history,” Sahakian told RFE/RL. “You can’t compare [what happened on] March 1 with those events.”