The rally went ahead despite local authorities’ refusal to sanction it. Armenia’s Administrative Court on Tuesday upheld the ban denounced by Dashnaktsutyun as illegal.
Addressing the small crowd that gathered in the capital of the central Aragatsotn province, one of the party’s leaders, Armen Rustamian, said “the formation of a new government” remains Dashnaktsutyun’s main political objective.
“We must start the process of preparing regime change, forming a new government from our regions so that every Armenian citizen understands the essence of Dashnaktsutyun’s programs,” said the chairman of the Armenian parliament’s foreign relations committee. Similar protests will be staged across the country in the coming weeks, he added.
Dashnaktsutyun, which has branches in all major Armenian communities abroad, was a major ally of former President Robert Kocharian throughout his decade-long rule. It joined a coalition government formed by his successor, Serzh Sarkisian, in April 2008 only to pull out of it in April 2009 in protest against his policy of rapprochement with Turkey.
While strongly condemning that policy, the nationalist party has so far been careful not to campaign for the president’s resignation and the conduct of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.
Armenia -- Supporters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation at a rally in Ashtarak, 29Sept 2010.
Rustamian and other speakers at the Ashtarak rally directed their ire at Sargis Sahakian, the Aragatsotn governor affiliated with Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). They accused Sahakian of mismanaging the region, previously governed by a Dashnaktsutyun member, and firing dozens of Dashnaktsutyun members since taking office last year.
“He breaks the law, and so we must do everything to make the government of the Republic of Armenia fire him,” Vahan Hovannisian, the parliament’s parliamentary leader and 2008 presidential candidate, told the crowd.
Karen Shahazizian, who leads a Dashnaktsutyun chapter in the region, claimed that some 30 civil servants, teachers and other public sector employees affiliated with the party have been forced to quit or fired over the past year. He said all of them were replaced by HHK members or the governor’s cronies.
Shahazizian himself was dismissed last year as head of the social security department at the regional administration, a position which he had held for 12 years. He is currently challenging his dismissal in a local court.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service after the rally, Sahakian denied firing anyone illegally or for political reasons. “Whatever I do is for my province and my country,” said the governor.