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The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) rallied several hundred people in Gyumri on Saturday, in what its leaders described as the start of nationwide demonstrations aimed at drumming up popular support for “regime change.”


While accusing Armenia’s government of mismanaging the country, they again stopped short of personally attacking President Serzh Sarkisian and demanding his immediate resignation.

“This country is governed wrongly. There is a deficit of good governance in our country,” said Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the pan-Armenian party who ran for president in 2008.

“Therefore, we no longer need this authority, as an integrated system, along with the vicious Asian culture of governance introduced by it,” he said.

“We are going for regime change. We are determined on this issue,” added Hovannisian.

“The situation in the country is becoming worse by the day,” Artsvik Minasian, a parliament deputy from Dashnaktsutyun, told the small crowd. “Failing to see this
Armenia -- Dashnakstutyun leader Vahan Hovhannisian (center) addresses a rally in Gyumri, 03Sep2011

and take action means not caring about your own country and people.”

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation), rather than the president, was clearly the main target of this criticism. Armen Rustamian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s organization in Armenia, announced that the party’s parliament faction will attempt another motion of censure against Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet soon.

Rustamian also reiterated Dashnaktsutyun’s view that Armenia’s democratization is hampered by not only government-organized electoral fraud but also widespread voter cynicism. Armenians should stop ignoring elections, selling their votes or voting for pro-government candidates out of fear, he said.

Dashnaktsutyun similarly refrained from singling out President Sarkisian for blame in a declaration that was adopted at the last congress of its worldwide structures held in June.

In a sign of rare discord within the 120-year-old party, the Dashnaktsutyun chapter in the western United States last month branded Sarkisian as a “discredited” individual who “tramples democracy and democratic values underfoot” in order to ensure “the reproduction of the criminal regime.”

In a written statement, the Armenian-American structure accused the Sarkisian government, of which Dashnaktsutyun was a part until April 2009, of committing “blatant human rights violations,” controlling the judiciary and sponsoring “oligarchs that continue to relentlessly plunder our people” in Armenia. It said its leaders will therefore boycott an upcoming official banquet in Los Angeles which is due to be attended by Sarkisian.

Dashnaktsutyun’s Bureau, the supreme decision-making body based in Yerevan, was quick to disapprove of the boycott.

Dashnaktsutyun already announced the launch of a nationwide campaign of anti-government protests as it rallied some 200 supporters in Ashtarak, a town 30 kilometers west of Yerevan, in September last year. It staged no further demonstrations in the following months, however.

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