Armenia’s leading anti-government political forces rejected and denounced on Monday an apparent police warning issued in connection with their possible joint campaign of street protests against the government.
Representatives of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party made clear that they are undaunted by “strict punishment” threatened by the Armenian police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, on Saturday.
“If the police chief of the Republic of Armenia has decided to take part in political processes, which is strictly forbidden by the Armenian constitution, then he should specify what and who he meant,” said Naira Zohrabian, a senior lawmaker from the BHK.
Zohrabian said that contrary to Gasparian’s implicit claims the parties challenging President Serzh Sarkisian never planned to take illegal actions in their fight against the government. “There will certainly be no change in our program,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The HAK’s Levon Zurabian condemned Gasparian’s statements, made during a police training exercise in crowd control, in stronger terms. He also deplored the fact that plainclothes police officers posing as opposition protesters during the drills chanted “Levon! Levon!” -- a clear reference to the HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. The latter is frequently greeted with such chants during demonstrations organized by the opposition party.
“This was a demonstration of impudent disrespect for the constitution on the part of the authorities, the police and Vova Gasparian in particular,” charged Zurabian. He also said that the police warning exposed government fears that opposition protests will attract large crowds.
Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, claimed that the police message was primarily aimed at discouraging ordinary Armenians from attending anti-government rallies. But he said it failed to intimidate disgruntled people.
The three parties as well as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) plan to hold an unprecedented joint demonstration next month. But they have not yet set a concrete date for the rally.