Opposition leader Vartan Oskanian made a passionate case for ousting Armenia’s current leadership as he addressed the first conference of his electoral alliance with former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian at the weekend.
The alliance led by Ohanian, Oskanian as well as another opposition heavyweight, Raffi Hovannisian, is expected to be one of the main opposition contenders in Armenia’s parliamentary elections slated for April 2. A joint declaration adopted by the three men on February 13 calls for a “new type of government” in the country.
“If we allow a government that has left the country on the brink of abyss to reproduce itself, nothing good will await us in the next decades,” Oskanian told hundreds of members of the bloc attending the conference. “Regime change in Armenia is imperative.”
Oskanian accused President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration of mismanaging the domestic economy and lacking the political will to tackle corruption and other abuses. He said only a new government could embark on sweeping policy changes needed for addressing these problems.
Ohanian made a similar point, albeit in a less confrontational manner, in his speech at the gathering, a prelude to the official launch of the bloc’s election campaign. “This is a critical moment for all of us,” he said. “Either we will realize the seriousness of the situation and the depth of challenges facing us and jointly change the existing system … or we will be confronted with real disasters.”
Hovannisian, who leads the Zharangutyun (Heritage), delivered a video address to the conference because of his absence from the country.
Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, Armen Martirosian, dismissed critics’ arguments that Oskanian’s and Ohanian’s current anti-government discourse is disingenuous because neither man spoke out against the country’s chronic problems when he was in office. All politicians can make mistakes, Martirosian told reporters.
Ohanian began criticizing the state of affairs in the country shortly after he was sacked as defense minister in October. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) last week, the retired army general denounced what he called a smear campaign waged against him by the authorities and their agents in the press and social media.He claimed that he is targeted because his alliance with Oskanian and Hovannisian is “the only force beyond the control” of the ruling regime.
Armen Ashotian, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed Ohanian’s complaints on Monday. Ashotian said that the HHK itself is being aggressively attacked, discredited and slandered by news websites thought to be close to Oskanian. He said he and many other Armenians can only “feel sorry for the general” who served in the Sarkisian administration for more than eight years.
“You can’t throw rocks at others when you live in a glass house,” Ashotian told journalists. “Everyone needs to understand this truth, especially those people who accuse us of some manipulations and smear campaigns while themselves engaging in such things on a large scale.”