The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) emphasized at the weekend modest attendance at opposition rallies against President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes, saying that their organizers have failed to drum up popular support for their cause.
“According to the most optimistic estimates, the number of participants of the rally did not surpass 1,000,” Armen Ashotian, an HHK deputy chairman, said of Friday’s demonstration in Yerevan held by the No Front, an opposition alliance campaigning against the controversial changes put on a December 6 referendum.
“I’m amazed when our opponents claim that we have no supporters,” Ashotian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We definitely have many more supporters than our opponents, who announced the rally in advance, fully utilized their propaganda potential but couldn’t manage to attract even 1,000 people to Liberty Square.”
No Front leaders claimed the opposite at Friday’s rally. They said their meetings across the country demonstrate that few citizens support President Serzh Sarkisian’s plans to turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic after the end of his final term in office in 2018.
Still, the key speaker at the rally, Levon Zurabian, seemed to acknowledge that many disaffected Armenians remain apathetic about the issue. He urged them to go to the polls in large numbers and vote against the proposed amendments on December 6.
Ashotian, who is also Armenia’s education minister, claimed that a high voter turnout would be good for the “Yes” campaign. He also said that the No Front and other opposition groups are actually legitimizing the constitutional reform process with their gatherings organized in the run-up to the referendum.
“If there had been only the ‘Yes’ campaign and all other political forces had boycotted the constitutional reform process, it would have been hard to speak of transparent campaign and equal campaigning opportunities,” he explained.
Some of the opposition forces campaigning against the constitutional reform have set up another, more radical alliance in an attempt to use the referendum for unseating Sarkisian. So far they have attracted even smaller crowds than the No Front.