By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Hrach Melkumian
The leadership of the Artarutyun alliance, Armenia’s biggest opposition group, reaffirmed on Monday its intention to continue anti-government demonstrations in Yerevan despite a clear loss of momentum its campaign for regime change.
The bloc’s leaders said the next rally, scheduled for Wednesday, will go ahead as planned. But it remained unclear whether the opposition will urge supporters to march towards President Robert Kocharian’s residence or elsewhere in the city center. They said the decision will be made during the protest jointly with their allies from the National Unity Party (AMK).
The two opposition forces had for weeks been promising to lay siege to the presidential palace. The first such action ended in violence on the night from April 12-13 when riot police used force to disperse a crowd of more than 2,000 people.
At their last rally on June 4 the opposition leaders effectively abandoned their plans for another “decisive action,” arguing that they have so far failed to pull crowds big enough to resist security forces. The move led local observers to conclude that the three-month campaign to oust Kocharian has failed.
But speaking to RFE/RL over the weekend, the two most popular oppositionists said they are determined to continue to fight against what they see as an “illegitimate” regime.” “This is a difficult process,” Artarutyun’s Stepan Demirchian said. “There may be different phases, different manifestations. But the process is certainly irreversible.”
“Illegalities, arbitrary use of force naturally have a depressing effect on the people. But this does not mean that the opposition movement is fading away,” AMK leader Artashes Geghamian agreed.
Another prominent opposition figure, Victor Dallakian, said the opposition made unspecified “tactical mistakes” in its drive for power, but insisted that its overall strategy of regime change is justified. But fellow lawmaker Arshak Sadoyan said that the mistakes were “serious.” He said the opposition should have opted for a more “muscular struggle” in the face of a tough crackdown unleashed by the authorities.
Wednesday’s rally is likely to be first opposition action sanctioned by the authorities. The organizers formally notified the Yerevan mayor’s office of the planned gathering in accordance with a new Armenian law. The municipality has voiced no objections yet.
Opposition officials attributed the effective permission to the presence in Yerevan of a delegation from the Council of Europe.