ISSN 2330-717X

Armenia: Opposition Calls For ‘Nonstop Rallies’

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(RFE/RL) — Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian “consulted” thousands of his supporters at the latest in a series of gatherings in central Yerevan before declaring the start of what he described as “nonstop rallies” to put more pressure on government officials to resign.

“The Armenian National Congress has decided to grant your spontaneous wish to hold a nonstop demonstration,” Ter-Petrosian told the overjoyed crowd after taking a pause to discuss the matter with other leaders of his alliance.

The ex-president made it clear that the future participants of such a continuous protest in Liberty Square must remain peaceful and law-abiding, avoid confrontation with police workers, using alcohol and disturbing public peace otherwise. He warned the authorities against taking any action against his peacefully protesting supporters, insisting that such a sitting strike is fully lawful.

Armenian National Congress (HAK) activists and supporters who had come to the square braving rain and chill also heard Ter-Petrosian reiterating the main opposition demands to the government, including early presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of the year and major changes in the country’s electoral legislation. Ter-Petrosian repeated that members of his alliance would consider restarting a formal political dialogue with President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration if at least those two demands were granted soon.

He warned that while the nonstop rally of his supporters was now limited to a week, it might be extended indefinitely unless the government responded to the demands.

In his 30-minute speech the HAK leader again criticized the government for the lack of democracy and continuing social and economic problems in the country, ridiculing Sarkisian’s promises to build a democratic and prosperous Armenia “in 20 years’ time.”

Ter-Petrosian repeated a reference from two years ago of a 17th-century Armenian cleric who became a self-styled spiritual leader of Ottoman Armenians, allegedly through corruption and deceit, but got elected, and thus legitimized, by the Armenian Apostolic Church as its new supreme leader later in response to an imminent threat to the unity of the people and the church.

Ter-Petrosian repeated that in order to get a similar legitimacy, Sarkisian “must clearly distance himself from the vicious legacy of [his predecessor] Robert Kocharian, wage a decisive struggle against the oligarchic system, clamp down on corruption.”

Hours before the September 30 rally, Kocharian effectively confirmed what media and pundits have speculated about for a week. In an interview with the Mediamax news agency the former president said he did not rule out his return to big politics. Kocharian made it clear, however, that only three major factors might force him to return to major-league politics, and those were: “the absence of a tangible and stable improvement of the situation in country’s economy and people’s welfare, and, consequently, the growth of hopeless moods and migration; the demand for my return to big politics by various layers of the society; and my inner belief that I can radically improve the situation.”

Analysts in Armenia have speculated that the possible pressure from Kocharian as a political rival may force Sarkisian and Ter-Petrosian to start moving closer towards each other in the run-up to the next parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in Armenia for 2012 and 2013, respectively.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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