By Tigran Avetisian
A representative of Armenia’s main opposition alliance on Thursday strongly criticized the international community’s perceived soft reaction to last February’s disputed presidential election, saying that it emboldened the Armenian authorities to use lethal force against opposition protesters.
Vladimir Karapetian, the foreign policy spokesman for the Armenian National Congress (HAK), denounced Western governments and human rights bodies as he presented a new report drawn up by an opposition task force investigating the post-election unrest in the country. The 40-page document details international reaction to the February 19 election, the March 1 deadly clashes in Yerevan and ensuing political developments.
“[Outgoing President] Robert Kocharian’s regime used inconsistent and contradictory messages, assessments and reactions from abroad to suppress the opposition’s post-election rallies by force and then with firearms and live rounds,” Karapetian told a news conference.
He singled out Western election observers’ initial, largely positive, assessment of the Armenian authorities’ handling of the presidential ballot. In a February 20 report, the monitoring mission led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the vote was administered “mostly in accordance” with democratic standards. The conclusion gave a major boost to the international legitimacy of Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial election win.
The OSCE mission was more critical of the election conduct in its final report issued in May, however. It said serious irregularities witnessed by its observers after the closure of the polls “devalued the overall election process.”
Karapetian said the differing content of the two reports “raises serious doubts about the impartiality of the observers.” But he went on to praise the West for repeatedly urging the Yerevan government to allow an inquiry into the March 1 violence and release dozens of supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian arrested afterwards. Still, the HAK representative complained that Western powers and institutions have not been consistent enough in asserting their demands.
Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly condemned what he sees as Western leniency toward the Sarkisian administration. In an October 17 speech, he accused the United States and Europe of turning a blind eye to government “repressions” in Armenia in their efforts to speed up a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He claimed that Sarkisian is ready to “put up Karabakh for sale” in return for securing greater Western support for his rule.
Sarkisian and his political allies have brushed aside these claims.
(Photolur photo: Vladimir Karapetian.)