By Shakeh AvoyanOpposition leader Raffi Hovannisian claimed on Friday mounting public support for his unusually strong verbal attacks on President Robert Kocharian that were contained in his open letter to the Armenian leader unveiled last week.
Hovannisian said nearly 70 prominent public figures and thousands of ordinary citizens have signed his accusatory “questionnaire” addressed to Kocharian as he spoke at another opposition rally in Yerevan attended by a few hundred people. It was the smallest of street protests staged the Armenian opposition since the November 27 constitutional referendum. Heavy rain appeared to have contributed to its poor attendance.
Hovannisian’s speech, the main highlight of the gathering, was devoted to his letter which contained 21 questions. In particular, Kocharian was challenged to publicly clarify whether he has rigged elections or had anyone killed while governing Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia for over a decade.
Kocharian has ignored the apparent public relations stunt designed to embarrass him.
His press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, shrugged off the letter as a “ludicrous piece of paper” on Monday.
But Hovannisian said it will again be delivered to the presidential palace on Monday along with the names of the 68 well-known Armenians who have added their voice to his demands. Among them are prominent artists, intellectuals, opposition politicians, human rights campaigners and even journalists. “Alas, my queries are not original,” he said. “They are on the lips and minds of all Armenians.”
Other opposition leaders, meanwhile, put a brave face on their failure so far to mobilize what they hoped would be a “critical mass” of supporters willing to confront the ruling regime. “Show me a single person who will voluntarily stand alongside the current acting president in heavy rain,” one of them, Aram Sarkisian, told the small crowd.
“This referendum showed that nothing can be changed in the Republic of Armenia through elections or referendums,” he said. “There is only one way of achieving change: revolution.”
Sarkisian and other leaders of the opposition coalition said their next rally will take place on January 27.