Speaking before delegates of Saturday’s convention of the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), one of nearly two dozen political parties and groups making up the alliance, Ter-Petrosian stressed that the movement that was institutionalized in the wake of the 2008 government crackdown on the opposition has ‘played an active role in the country’s political life’ in the past two and a half years despite uniting members with varied ideological approaches.
Responding to critics who have challenged the HAK’s ‘ideological underpinnings’, Ter-Petrosian said: “They either lack or have a wrong idea of what ideology is, or else they deliberately distort its essence.”
Without denying that ideologies may vary from party to party within the HAK, Ter-Petrosian sought to downplay the differences against the backdrop of “the imperative to save the country from destruction by means of doing away with the gangster state and restoring constitutional order.”
“The HAK’s declaration did not restrict the independence of any of its members. Moreover, it even guarantees the full independence of their activities,” the opposition leader stressed.
Dissidence within the HAK conspicuously emerged earlier this year after several major members publicly stated their disagreement with the alliance’s leader regarding a number of key policies.
Armenia -- The 7th Congress of the opposition HZhK party. 04 Dec., 2010
While the opposition has vigorously denied a major rift within its ranks, government loyalists have been quick to use the occasions to argue that the opposition has been losing popular support, evolving into a shadow of its former self that came close to toppling the government in February-March 2008.
Stepan Demirchian, the HZhK leader and one of the closest allies of Ter-Petrosian before and after the 2008 presidential election in which Armenia’s first president controversially lost as a candidate to incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian, also emphasized that the differences that may exist among the HAK members “do not prevent them from struggling for the establishment of constitutional order in the country.”
“The HAK is not a structure devoid of shortcomings. At the same time it would be considered as a positive step if the parties involved in the Congress united on an ideological basis, which should take place in a normal course,” said Demirchian, who was reelected leader by his opposition party.
Armenia -- An opposition rally in Hrazdan. 03Dec2010
On the eve of the HZhK’s congress representatives of the Armenian opposition held protests in three provincial towns of Armenia demanding the release of their fellow oppositionists now jailed for their purported roles in the 2008 post-election violence.
Police force was deployed near one of the central places in Ijevan, the home town of the jailed oppositionist and chief editor of the pro-opposition Haykakan Zhamanak daily Nikol Pashinian, to block protesters’ entry to the square, leading the opposition supporters to hold their rally in a nearby location.
A young opposition activist was reportedly briefly detained by police during the march staged after the rally.
Residents in Hrazdan, meanwhile, gathered in one of the town’s squares to demand the release of Sasun Mikaelian and Aram Bareghamian, who are also jailed in connection with the post-election unrest.
In Maralik, people staged a march in support of the jailed leader of the opposition Armenian National Movement’s local chapter Harutiun Urutian, who is serving a six-year prison term on charges of “obstructing the electoral process and inflicting bodily harm to a candidate’s [incumbent president Serzh Sarkisian’s] proxy.”
The Armenian government denies that any of about a dozen opposition members who remain in jail after politically charged trials related to the 2008 post-election developments are ‘political prisoners’, as insisted by the opposition, and says they are serving their time in prison for committing specific criminal offenses.