By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s leading political groups, including the three members of the ruling coalition, have condemned violence that disrupted an opposition rally this week and agreed to work together to prevent “interference of criminal elements in politics,” it emerged on Friday.
Leaders of about two dozen political parties met for about three hours the previous night to formulate a common stance on Tuesday’s ugly incident in the central town of Sevan where the Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party of Aram Karapetian rallied about a thousand opposition supporters. The gathering degenerated into a mass brawl after some in the crowd denounced its organizer.
Karapetian alleged that the violence was engineered by an unspecified “government wing” which he said is seeking to scuttle his drive for a “revolution” in Armenia. The maverick politician was summoned to the Prosecutor-General’s Office and questioned for more than two hours on Friday.
The party leaders that met late on Thursday claimed to have agreed the main points of their joint statement but did not release its final version as of Friday evening. Participants of the unprecedented multi-party talks told RFE/RL that the statement will condemn the incident and demand the punishment of those who provoked it.
“This was an unprecedented event,” opposition leader Vazgen Manukian said.
“Everyone agreed that the participation of apolitical and especially criminal elements in political life harms Armenia,” said another prominent oppositionist, Paruyr Hayrikian.
Mher Shahgeldian, a leader of one of the three parties represented in Armenia’s government, confirmed the information. “The Orinats Yerkir Party finds it unacceptable when criminal elements attempt to take part in political processes as a result of which we have such incidents,” Shahgeldian said.
The joint statement is unlikely to implicate any government agency or official in the incident. In a statement on Thursday, Armenia’s most radical opposition party, Hanrapetutyun, laid the blame on President Robert Kocharian. Hanrapetutyun and other opposition parties say the authorities used the same “criminal elements” last year to disrupt their campaign for Kocharian resignation.
National Unity Party leader Artashes Geghamian made this argument to justify his decision to boycott the multi-party talks. “Why are you making statements?” he said, appealing to the coalition parties. “Power is in your hands. Why don’t you fire the head of the National Security Service or the chief of the Police.”
Geghamian, who has a tense relationship with Karapetian, also charged that the authorities are using the Nor Zhamanakner leader to discredit the idea of regime change in the eyes of ordinary Armenians.
(Photolur photo: Aram Karapetian.)