By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s three leading opposition parties on Friday fired the first salvo of their concerted assault on the authorities, calling for the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian for his “anti-popular and unconstitutional” policies. The People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) and the Hanrapetutyun and National Accord parties set the stage for the creation of a formidable opposition alliance with a joint statement accusing Kocharian of mismanaging the country and supporting the perpetrators of the 1999 parliament massacre.
Ex-premier Aram Sarkisian sitting under a banner depicting his late brother Vazgen
“Only after Kocharian’s resignation will it be possible to implement a comprehensive plan of actions to rebuild the country and ensure social justice and the rule of law,” the strongly worded statement said. The three parties, which control less than 20 seats in the 131-member parliament but can together pose a tough challenge to the authorities, urged supporters to pressurize their lawmakers into launching impeachment proceedings against the head of state.
The politically explosive statement was issued at the founding congress of Hanrapetutyun. “We must respond to public demand and orchestrate and carry out Robert Kocharian’s dismissal by constitutional means,” Albert Bazeyan, a former Yerevan mayor and a leader of the opposition party, declared at the overcrowded conference hall of the National Academy of Sciences. “The removal of the Kocharian regime and the formation of a legitimate government is the main precondition for the development of our country.”
“It is obvious that the country needs changes, it is obvious that the people expect them,” HZhK leader Stepan Demirchian agreed, addressing hundreds of congress delegates.
The tri-partite statement, read out by National Accord leader Artashes Geghamian, accused Kocharian of repeatedly violating the Armenian constitution, sponsoring “terrorism,” pursuing a “criminal economic policy” and fostering corruption. “Being incapable of creative work, the president is resorting to political intrigues, in a bid to split and divide political parties,” it alleged.
The move made even more likely the setting up of a new political alliance uniting the country’s most radical and popular opposition groups. It followed last week’s final collapse of the Miasnutyun alliance between the HZhK and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK). The HZhK’s involvement is crucial for the success of what many opposition activists hope will be a “united front” against Kocharian and his closest associate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. However, none of the party leaders commented on the likelihood of the alliance.
The Hanrapetutyun congress provided the right setting for the show of opposition force, with virtually every speaker making Kocharian’s resignation the main theme of their speech. “Our party is ready to shoulder responsibility for forming a new government,” said another Hanrapetutyun leader, former prime minister Aram Sarkisian.
Sarkisian was sacked by Kocharian in May last year after his defeat in a seven-month power struggle that followed the brutal murder in the parliament of his brother and predecessor, Vazgen Sarkisian, together with the father of the HZhK leader, Karen Demirchian, and six other officials. Hanrapetutyun regards itself as the sole successor of Vazgen Sarkisian’s political legacy. Its congress hall was adorned with a huge picture of the slain premier.
The allegedly botched investigation into the parliament shootings figured prominently in the opposition statement. It alleged that Kocharian has “steered” the inquiry in a wrong direction to hide the truth about the killings.
Aram Sarkisian and his allies, many of them from the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans, formed the party earlier this year after splitting from the governing HHK. The Republicans were attacked by Bazeyan for their “opportunism,” a reference to their desire to avoid any confrontation with Kocharian.