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Kocharian Sees ‘Powerful’ Opposition Emerging In Armenia


Armenia -- Former President Robert Kocharian gives an interview to the Russian NTV channel, Yerevan, 28Aug2018.

Armenia’s imprisoned former President Robert Kocharian has predicted the emergence of a new and “powerful” opposition force in the country and said he will be involved in it.

In written comments to the Reuters news agency published on Wednesday, Kocharian also reiterated that grave criminal charges leveled against him are politically motivated.

“This process will certainly lead to the creation of a powerful political force capable of challenging the authorities very soon,” he said, writing from a detention center in Yerevan where he is being held.

Asked if he will be personally involved in the emerging opposition, he replied: “Yes, of course.” But he did not give details about what form that involvement could take.

Kocharian, who served as president from 1998-2008, announced his return to active politics shortly after spending about a month in jail last summer. He was again arrested in December.

Kocharian and two retired army generals will go on trial soon on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. They are specifically accused of using the armed forces against opposition supporters that protested against alleged vote rigging.

Eight protesters and two police servicemen were killed in street clashes that broke out in Yerevan late on March 1, 2008. Kocharian declared a state of emergency in the Armenian capital on that night. He completed his second presidential term and handed over power to Serzh Sarkisian, the official election winner and his preferred successor, in April 2008.

Armenia - A man walks past burned cars on a street in Yerevan where security forces clashed with opposition protesters, 2 March 2008.
Armenia - A man walks past burned cars on a street in Yerevan where security forces clashed with opposition protesters, 2 March 2008.

Kocharian again defended the decisions he took during the 2008 protests. “Order was restored only after the introduction of the state of emergency and thanks to it,” he said. “Not doing that would have meant official inaction on the part of the president.”

Sarkisian resigned in April 2018 amid mass protests against his attempt to extend his decade-long rule. The protest leader, Nikol Pashinian, was elected prime minister in May.

Looking back at the peaceful protests, Kocharian said they were caused by “accumulated discontent in the society and desire for change”, but were not a revolution.

“I would not call it a revolution as fundamentally nothing has changed in the country, except for the appearance of a big share of aggression in the society, and populism and dilettantism in the leadership,” he said in written answers to questions Reuters had sent to him.

Critics have accused the 64-year-old ex-president and his former allies of cracking down on democracy, corruption and mismanagement during their time in power. They have denied those allegations.

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