The Armenian government must not use the approaching 11th anniversary of deadly post-election violence in Yerevan for political purposes, a senior opposition lawmaker said on Friday.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Thursday urged supporters to join him on March 1 in marching through the city center to mark the anniversary and pay respects to ten people killed in vicious clashes between security forces and opposition protesters.
Pashinian said the demonstration will be “directed against violence, vote rigging, corruption and abuses.” Its participants will also “showcase our commitment to democracy in Armenia,” he added in a live Facebook broadcast.
Representatives of the two opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that they will lay flowers at the site of the deadly clashes that broke out late on March 1, 2008. But they would not say whether they will join the march initiated by Pashinian.
“We have not yet discussed the issue of joining or not joining Mr. Pashinian’s event,” said Gevorg Gorgisian, a senior parliamentarian representing the Bright Armenia Party (LHK).
While condemning the use of lethal force against opposition supporters who took to streets in the wake of a disputed presidential election, Gorgisian said that he has “not yet understood the purpose and the reason for the march.”
“I personally don’t think that it is necessary to again turn that day of mourning into a demonstration of force or a [political] show,” he added.
Arman Abovian, a leading member of the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) party’s parliamentary group, also seemed unimpressed by Pashinian’s initiative. “The most important thing is that we all refrain from politicizing that day of mourning,” he said.
The BHK signed a power-sharing deal with Serzh Sarkisian, the official winner of the February 2008 election and former President Robert Kocharian’s preferred successor, just weeks after the violence.
Sarkisian’s main challenger, Levon Ter-Petrosian, refused to concede defeat, alleging serious fraud. Thousands of Ter-Petrosian supporters staged nonstop protests which were broken up by security forces on March 1-2, 2008. Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed as a result.
The former Armenian authorities accused the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition of organizing the “mass disturbances” in a bid to seize power. Dozens of Ter-Petrosian allies, including Pashinian, were subsequently jailed on charges strongly denied by them.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) completely changed the official version of events shortly last spring’s “velvet revolution” which brought Pashinian to power. It now says that Kocharian illegally used army units against the protesters.
Kocharian was arrested in December five months after being charged with overthrowing the constitutional order. The ex-president denies the accusations as politically motivated. Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenian also condemned Kocharian’s arrest, saying that Pashinian is exacting “personal revenge” against the man who ruled the county from 1998-2008.