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Opposition Bloc Offers Cooperation To Dashnaktsutyun


Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, speaks at a news conference on June 3, 2009.

Armenia’s largest opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian urged the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and other “healthy” political forces on Wednesday to join it in fighting against the country’s current leadership.

The Armenian National Congress (HAK) also stood by its claims that the May 31 municipal elections in Yerevan were rigged by President Serzh Sarkisian and his political allies.

“The techniques of vote rigging applied during the municipal elections in Yerevan prove that a criminal and totalitarian state system with a democratic façade has been created in Armenia,” the HAK said in a statement.

“The Armenian National Congress has taken the lead in the fight against this destructive system,” it added. “We are calling on all of the country’s democratic political forces to close the ranks in this fight for the establishment of democracy.”

Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the alliance, presented the statement and elaborated on its key message at a news conference in Yerevan. “We are also appealing to all those political forces, that consider themselves healthy and are built on an ideological foundation, to unite and fight against these phenomena,” Zurabian said. He made clear that the HAK considers Dashnaktsutyun a healthy party.

The statement was remarkable given the long history of antagonism between the Ter-Petrosian camp and Dashnaktsutyun. The nationalist party strongly opposed Armenia’s first post-Soviet government head by Ter-Petrosian from 1990-1998 and was controversially banned by the latter in 1994. Dashnaktsutyun was a major ally of Ter-Petrosian’s successor Robert Kocharian and, until recently, President Sarkisian.

It also unequivocally backed the Armenian government’s harsh crackdown on the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition following the disputed presidential election of February 2008. Dashnaktsutyun leaders remained cool towards the idea of cooperating with the HAK even as they pulled out of the country’s governing coalition in late April.

Like the HAK, Dashnaktsutyun has alleged serious fraud and refused to accept the official results of the weekend polls which gave victory to Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Two of the party’s top leaders on Tuesday backed the HAK’s decision not to take up its 13 seats in Yerevan’s newly elected Council of Elders. Dashnaktsutyun failed to win any seats in the 65-member municipal assembly.

Sarkisian on Monday hailed the vote as a “serious step forward” in the elimination of Armenia’s culture of electoral fraud. A dozen observers from the Council of Europe gave a similarly positive assessment of the election conduct.

According to Zurabian, with its handling of the polls the Sarkisian administration has essentially told Armenians that their government can be changed only by force. “We are thinking over that message,” he said, adding that the HAK could launch a campaign of nationwide “civil disobedience.”

Another senior HAK figure, Vahagn Khachatrian, ruled out any “forcible methods” of political struggle. “We will never allow a civil war in the country,” he said. “That would mean a loss of our statehood.”

Speaking during the last HAK rally on Monday, Ter-Petrosian promised supporters to come up with a plan of further opposition actions at their next protest scheduled for June 12.
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