By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leader Aram Karapetian made on Tuesday a fresh pledge to topple Armenia’s ruling regime even if we fails to win the backing of other opposition groups that seem increasingly wary of his reputed Russian connections.
Karapetian announced plans to stage a nationwide campaign of anti-government demonstrations as he addressed an open-air conference of his Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party attended by several hundred people.
“What we want is one thing: to make the people active, bring them to Baghramian Avenue in Yerevan and demand [the regime’s] resignation,” he said. “No other idea will work in Armenia.”
Armenia’s main opposition groups had already rallied supporters on the street leading to President Robert Kocharian’s official residence during its ill-fated attempt to carry out a “revolution” in April 2004. The protest was violently dispersed by security forces using truncheons, water cannons and stun grenades.
Incidentally, Karapetian and his party refused to join the campaign at the time for reasons which he has still not clearly explained. That might explain why none of the top leaders of the Armenian opposition attended the Nor Zhamanakner gathering. Most of them, notably Aram Sarkisian of the pro-Western Hanrapetutyun party, will also hardly like Karapetian’s pledge to turn Armenia into Russia’s “closest ally” and his attempts to justify the doubling of the price of Russian natural gas.
Karapetian, who has promised anti-government revolts before, expressed hope that other opposition parties will join his drive for regime change. But he said he will start mobilizing opposition supporters across the country this month in any case.
The Nor Zhamanakner leader claimed that parliamentary elections due next year will not be free and fair if the Kocharian administration remains in power. “If the situation in Armenia does not change radically before the elections of 2007, those elections will be a farce,” he said. “Any person or party participating in that farce will [be judged to] represent the government.”