Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian attracted small crowds on Friday as he visited Armenia’s second and third largest cities to drum up support for his new campaign of anti-government street protests.
Hovannisian travelled to Gyumri and Vanadzor one week after rallying hundreds of supporters in Yerevan and announcing a new push for “regime change.” He said the protests will create “a new situation” in the country by the end of the September.
Attendance at his gatherings held in both northern cities was poor, with only several dozen people turning to hear the U.S.-born leader of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party who was President Serzh Sarkisian’s main challenger in the February 2013 presidential elections. He defeated Sarkisian in both Gyumri and Vanadzor.
“I am ready to fight as much as you are,” Hovannisian told a tiny crowd in a central Vanadzor square. “I am desperate as much as you are. I believe that we can’t carry on like this as much you do.”
He again urged other opposition parties as well as various civic and social groups currently staging protests in Yerevan to join forces and try to bring down the Sarkisian government. Some in the crowd were unconvinced, however. One middle-aged man told Hovannisian that only an armed uprising can make the difference. “We need a war. Hand out weapons. This is the way to go,” he said.
Hovannisian seemed taken aback by a similar number of people that greeted him in Gyumri later in the day. He rallied thousands of supporters there in the wake of the presidential ballot.
Hovannisian’s post-election campaign fizzled out in April amid a lack of support shown by other opposition parties. The latter complained that he never came up with a clear plan of actions.
Speaking in Vanadzor, the Zharangutyun leader attributed that fiasco to the fact that his movement lacked a tight partisan structure and a sufficient number of non-partisan civic activists.