By Emil Danielyan
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched past the OSCE office in Yerevan on Thursday after their leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, appealed to Western powers to back his demands for a re-run of Armenia’s disputed presidential election.
In a speech before a big crowd that filled the city’s Liberty Square for the ninth consecutive day, Ter-Petrosian criticized Western observers for calling the vote largely democratic and portrayed his ongoing street protests as a pro-democracy movement based on liberal democratic values.
“The West, the election missions must not display a formalistic approach to what is happening in Armenia,” he told the crowd. “The fate of democracy in Armenia is in the hands of the West. Namely, the United States and the European Union countries and structures like the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the observers representing them.”
“So the West, the European countries, the United States of America and their international organizations must make the following choice. Either they are with the people of Armenia -- and that means standing for democracy, the rule of law and a market-based economy -- or with Armenia’s kleptocratic, rotten regime,” said Ter-Petrosian.
Ter-Petrosian thanked Western governments for urging the Armenian authorities not to use force against his supporters holding non-stop rallies in Yerevan but said “more needs to be done” to promote the country’s democratization. That, he said, means demanding the scrapping of the official results of the February 19 election which gave victory to Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
The appeal came the day after Ter-Petrosian met with Peter Semneby, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus who arrived in Yerevan to discuss growing post-election tensions in Armenia with government and opposition leaders. Ter-Petrosian’s office said the ex-president assured Semneby that “the movement led by him will continue to act within the framework of the constitution and laws.” He at the same time reaffirmed his plans to “fight against the existing kleptocratic system to the end.”
Semneby also met with Sarkisian on Thursday. A government statement quoted the EU envoy as congratulating the Armenian premier on his election win and praising the government’s conduct of the vote. The statement said Semneby also conveyed to Sarkisian a message from the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, which called on the two rival camps not to take “steps leading to violence.”
“We will be extremely patient as long as they don’t try to abuse that patience, and that would lead to bad consequences,” Sarkisian was reported to reply.
In his speech, Ter-Petrosian commended Russia for displaying a more “serious” attitude towards the post-election unrest. Ter-Petrosian, who reportedly met outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s likely successor on the eve of the vote, said Moscow is closely monitoring the situation in Armenia and “will make the right decision.”