Armen Rustamian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), on Friday criticized fellow opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian for holding a demonstration in Yerevan that ended in clashes with riot police earlier this week.
Rustamian also dismissed the alternative “inauguration of a new Armenia” that was organized by Hovannisian in the city’s Liberty Square while President Serzh Sarkisian was sworn in for a second term in office on Tuesday. He said his party is aware of only Sarkisian’s inauguration.
Rustamian and other Dashnaktsutyun lawmakers boycotted the presidential ceremony. Hovannisian and thousands of his supporters also protested against the Armenian authorities’ handling of the February 18 presidential election on that day. They were stopped by riot police when attempting to march to the presidential palace.
“When maximalist objectives are set but not achieved that causes disappointment among the people,” Rustamian told a news conference. “And if you attempt to realize that goal fully and rapidly, you are driven into resolute and somewhat unprepared actions. This is unacceptable to us.”
“Raffi is the one who drew up and implemented the scenario on that day. So naturally that led to what we have now,” he said.
While supporting Hovannisian’s post-election protests, Dashnaktsutyun has said that the Armenian opposition cannot force Sarkisian to step down and should focus instead on achieving a “radical reform of the state system.” In that regard, the opposition party has emphasized the importance of upcoming municipal elections in Yerevan.
Rustamian on Friday again made the point that a victory of opposition forces in the May 5 polls would pave the way for a “gradual” regime change in the country.
Hovannisian’s latest actions were also criticized by a senior member of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more radical opposition group. “It is not quite clear whether Raffi Hovannisian has refused to recognize the government,” said Gagik Jahangirian. “If he refused, why did he pray with the police chief [Vladimir Gasparian] at the Tsitsernakabert [genocide memorial?]”
Gasparian escorted Hovannisian and several hundred opposition supporters to the memorial immediately after Tuesday’s clashes.