- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
March 26, 2004

Say You Want a Revolution?: Opposition parties say change of power only weeks away

Armenia 's fractured and, so far, politically impotent oppositional parties are rumbling again with talk of a change of power and comparing their aim with Armenia 's break from Soviet control nearly 16 years ago.

The republic's 10 or so oppositional parties maintain that President Robert Kocharyan's election a year ago was illegitimate. Some are whispering revolution, and hanging hopes on a resolution adopted by the Constitutional Court last April 17, which allows for a Referendum of Confidence within a year of that date.

Opposition parties hope that citizens from the regions -- like this one from Armavir demonstrating last year -- will help launch a revolution.

Since February 2, the Ardarutiun (Justice) oppositional bloc of the National Assembly has boycotted Assembly meetings in protest of the current government.

And in something like pre-election campaigns, the bloc, led by secretary of the Justice faction at the Parliament Victor Dallakyan, has organized meetings to strategize and even established a headquarters it says will be used for the eventual change of power.

The coalition of opposition parties strengthened this week, when the National Unity Party, led by one-time presidential candidate Artashes Geghamyan added its support to the Justice Bloc.

But, typical of 2003's pre-presidential campaign, when 16 parties agreed to form a union, but couldn't agree on a single candidate to represent the union, the bloc lacks a unified aim at how to achieve its purpose.

“Some (bloc members) insist it's still possible to try to pass a law in the National Assembly and hold a Referendum of Confidence. Others believe it's not possible,” says Hanrapetutiun (Republic) party leader Albert Bazeyan. “The nearest time for the beginning of activities was set for the end of March and the furthest date is from April 10 to 12.”

The People's Party of Armenia (PPA) agrees with the Justice Bloc's timeframe, however, the National Unity party says May is the time for action.

In any case, while Kocharyan's “illegitimate” government has a year of relative calm on its ledger, oppositional leaders – perhaps still envious of Georgia 's successful opposition that overthrew a president – are calling for revolution.

“Only one constitutional possibility for change of power is left, which is mentioned in the second paragraph of the Constitution, ‘In the Republic of Armenia power belongs to the people',” says Hanrapetutiun secretary Suren Surenyants. “People can gain that right only with the help of revolution, the way it was in 1988.”

Surenyants says former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan is the man to lead the revolution. But then adds that another or two might also fulfill the task.

“Our party offers a model of change of power by means of democratic revolution and we are sure under the leadership of Aram Sargsyan it will be the best way of bringing that model into life,” Surenyants says. “However, Hanrapetutiun doesn't exclude the possibility of having Stepan Demirchyan or Artashes Geghamyan as a leader because in any case people must decide by means of elections, who will become president.”

A strategy of action is still somewhat a bloc secret, as it doesn't want to tip the administration to its intentions.

It is clear, however, that any groundswell of support will start in the regions, where oppositional rallies are already routine. In response, in fact, Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan has urged members of the government to visit the regions to offset the influence of opposition propaganda.

Press Secretary of the Justice Bloc Ruzan Khachatryan says visits to regions are very important for the opposition, as during those visits they prepare people for a change of power. She says April 10 to 13 will be the time for revolt.

The Justice Bloc is also expected to organize two mass rallies in Yerevan , after which it will urge supporters to conduct sit-ins outside the Presidential Residence.

“Power must be changed,” says leader of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manukyan. But he raises questions concerning things which must be done after the change.

“People will agree to rise in the name of some ideas, in the name of change of power only in case they know for sure what is taking place,” the former presidential candidate says.

Manukyan further concludes that the opposition lacks unity and needs a clear leader.

“We need unity to change the power. Different candidates from the bloc got different percents (during presidential elections) but the opposition has no leader as it was in 1988 when the Karabakh Committee was a valuable leader,” he says. “All of them are ‘black boxes' for me as none of them are experienced in political struggle and none of them have strongly pronounced ideas.”

If revolution is to come, it will count on the opposition's belief that there is widespread discontent and a crisis of confidence – claims Kocharyan rebutted recently in an address at Yerevan State University .

“To say there is a political crisis in the country where there is 13.9 percent of economic growth, where, according to all showings, considerable developments are obvious, means not to understand quite well what ‘political crisis' means,” Kocharyan said.

The President further elaborated the achievements of his first year of his second term.

“They are unprecedented indexes in our modern history, after declaration of independence, they are the best accounting among CIS countries,” he said.

A day after the President addressed students, oppositional party leader Geghamyan met with the same students and countered Kocharyan's claims. Armenia is 217 th out of 220 countries in percentage of malnourished, Geghamyan claimed, and:

“Tens, hundreds of organizations and services sectors don't pay taxes to the state budget. Forty to 60 percent of the economy is ‘shadow'. The reason the President didn't mention it is because the people in power are the owners of the shadow economy.”

Ten days ago date, Kocharyan fired his Prosecutor General and replaced him. He has also held meetings with heads of police – both measures seen by some as the president preparing for a showdown.

Kocharyan told reporters he would continue measures to increase internal stability.

“We strengthen these bodies and we strengthen them in all directions,” said Kocharyan. "The psychology of a bum in the poitical field is dangerous for the country."

Next Tuesday, the Justice Bloc is expected to make an announcement calling on citizens to rally for a change of power.

According to Agnes


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