By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) blamed on Friday opposition politician Aram Karapetian for violence that disrupted a rally organized by him last week, retreating from the governing party’s earlier strong condemnation of the incident.
The disruption, blamed by Karapetian on an unspecified “government wing,” provoked an uproar from virtually all of Armenia’s major political groups, including Dashnaktsutyun. In a joint statement issued over the weekend, they agreed to work together to prevent further “interference of criminal elements in politics.”
One of the Dashnaktsutyun leaders, Vahan Hovannisian, met with Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and national police chief Hayk Harutiunian late on Thursday to familiarize himself with the course of their criminal investigation into the incident. “The facts collected by them clearly demonstrate all the incidents that occurred during the rally … resulted from its wrong organization and unacceptable style,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL.
“If you allow people during a rally to ask you questions through your microphone, you must be ready for not liking some of those questions,” he argued. “An order to oust people from the rally inevitably leads to scuffles, which is what happened.”
The rally in the central town of Sevan, attended by about 1,000 people, descended into chaos after some participants took issue with Karapetian’s pledge to effect regime change in Armenia. One angry man, who presented himself as a veteran of the war with Azerbaijan, openly accused Karapetian of trying to dupe Armenians. The oppositionist told the crowd to remove the man from the square and scuffles between various groups of people followed.
Dashnaktsutyun was one of the first parties that reacted to the incident, implying that some government factions had a hand in it. “This is a challenge to the republic’s political forces which aims to prevent a civilized struggle based democratic values and principles from taking root,” the party’s leadership said in a statement.
“We stand by our statement and are responsible for our signature under the common [multi-party] statement because there is overall concern after all,” Hovannisian said.
Representatives of more that three dozen parties that signed the statement, most of them in opposition to President Robert Kocharian, are expected to meet again next week to assess the authorities’ response to their concerns. Hovannisian said Dashnaktsutyun and two other members of the governing coalition will not necessarily attend the meeting.
“If they have already decided who is guilty and if our view will not be taken into account, then I will find such contacts fruitless,” he explained.
(Photolur photo: Vahan Hovannisian.)