By Anush Martirosian
Authorities in Yerevan have banned the next opposition rally during which former President Levon Ter-Petrosian is expected to unveil his promised new strategy of confronting the Armenian government.
In accordance with Armenia’s law on public gatherings, Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) formally notified the Yerevan mayor’s office last week about its intention to rally supporters on the city’s Northern Avenue on October 17. The municipality was quick to refuse to authorize the protest and suggest an alternative venue outside the city center. It did not explain the ban.
Artak Zeynalian, an HAK representative, on Tuesday rejected the ban as illegal and said the opposite has asked Armenia’s Administrative Court to overturn it. He said municipality officials considered the rally application on October 2 in the absence of opposition representatives and violated other procedures mandated by the law in question.
But Gagik Baghdasarian, a senior municipality official, denied this, insisting that opposition representatives were informed about and invited to the October 2 meeting.
The authorities have banned just about every rally organized by the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition even after the softening of severe restrictions of freedom of assembly that were imposed following the March 1 post-election unrest in the Armenian capital. The Armenian police have so far refrained from enforcing those decisions, though.
The police chief, Alik Sargsian, warned last month that their patience with unsanctioned opposition protests and marches is wearing thin. Ter-Petrosian associates brushed aside the warning.
One of them, Levon Zurabian, indicated that the opposition will defy the latest government as well. “All of us are preparing for the October 17 rally, which will be extremely important,” Zurabian told RFE/RL as he strolled along Northern Avenue with other opposition activists. “On that day Levon Ter-Petrosian will present our new strategy and make very important revelations.”
Addressing about 2,000 people who converged on the pedestrian boulevard on September 26, Ter-Petrosian urged supporters to attend the next rally in much larger numbers. “During it I will not reveal tactical secrets but will honestly and sincerely present to you the strategy of our further struggle, without hiding anything from you,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian and his opposition allies had pledged to launch this fall a fresh campaign of “resolute” actions aimed at toppling the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian and forcing pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections. However, they signaled on September 15 that they have opted for a more prolonged and less confrontational struggle.