The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan and called for a “comprehensive” change of the country’s government and political system at the start of its election campaign on Tuesday.
Leaders of the opposition party deplored the state of affairs in Armenia and dismissed sweeping changes promised by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK). But they were careful not to attack Sarkisian personally or even mention him by name.
“This is a government that was saying until recently that everything is alright in our country and bragged about its achievements. Now when they say ‘let’s change to believe’ that sounds pathetic,” Armen Rustamian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body in Armenia, said, referring to the HHK’s campaign motto.
“For if things are fine, what should we change?” Rustamian told the crowd demonstrating in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. “But if things are bad, why shouldn’t we change them? And this is what we must do together.”
Rustamian, who also chairs the outgoing Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations, went on to stress the need for a “comprehensive regime change” that would lead to not only a new government but also a system of governance that “serves the people.” That, he said, requires the conduct of free and fair elections and Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic.
“We must carry out a comprehensive regime change,” said Rustamian. “It would be meaningless to expect anything serious without that.”
Vahan Hovannisian, another Dashnaktsutyun leader, urged voters to help the party bar “uneducated and corrupt individuals and thieves” from re-entering the National Assembly. He did not name any of them.
“We tolerated them because we were weak,” Hovannisian said. “Now that we are strong will we allow a corrupt individual to enter the parliament? No. Will we allow thieves to again sit on parliament chairs? No.”
Dashnaktsutyun was part of Armenia’s governing coalition until April 2009 and left it in protest against Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey. It was also represented in the executive branch during much of former President Robert Kocharian’s decade-long rule.
Hovannisian, Rustamian and other speakers at the rally did not comment on the possibility of Dashnaktsutyun joining a new coalition government that could be formed by Sarkisian after the May 6 elections.
Dashnaktsutyun won 13 percent of the vote and 16 seats in the 131-member National Assembly in the last legislative elections held in May 2007.