By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Communist Party (HKK), once a major political force, rallied more than two thousand supporters in Yerevan on Tuesday to celebrate May Day and remind voters of its largely unnoticed election campaign.
Waving red Soviet flags and chanting “Long live May 1! Long Live the Communist Party!” they marched through the city center to the accompaniment of Soviet-era music played by a brass band. Party leaders buoyed the crowd with passionate calls and urged curious onlookers to help the HKK win back presence in parliament in the May 12 elections.
“At a time when the whole country is unemployed, when the worker sits idly at home, when blood, rather than tears, drop from his eyes, I call on all of you to be with the Communist Party on May 12,” the HKK first secretary, Ruben Tovmasian, declared through a megaphone. “You will thereby save our fatherland, the fate of the Armenian people, the fate of the younger generations, your grandchildren.”
“If this National Assembly is elected with the disgraceful methods that were used in 2003, then Armenia and its people will become servants and slaves of foreigners,” he said, urging voters to reject “oligarchs and other plunderers.”
Tovmasian was referring to the last parliamentary elections in which the HKK failed to win any parliament seats for the first time since Armenia’s independence. Few observers think that the staunchly left-wing party, which garnered an average of 10 percent of the vote throughout the 1990s, will clear the 5 percent vote barrier to return to the National Assembly. The Armenian media is largely ignoring its low-key election campaign.
As the May Day demonstration showed, the Communists mainly appeal to the shrinking number of elderly and impoverished Armenians nostalgic about their far more prosperous Soviet past. One woman spoke for many of them when she said, “I stand for socialism and believe that Armenia can become prosperous only by following a socialist path of development.”
Quite a few demonstrators were residents of rural regions of the country. Some arrived at the protest with their children and grandchildren wearing red neckties, an obligatory item of school students’ attire in the former Soviet Union.
May 1 is a public holiday in Armenia officially called Labor May. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a center-left party represented in the government, also marked it with a rally held in another part of Yerevan.