‘Decisive’ Opposition Action Again Postponed

‘Decisive’ Opposition Action Again Postponed
By Emil Danielyan 24/05/2004 11:12

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
May 24 2004

The Armenian opposition announced late Friday yet another postponement
of its promised “decisive” offensive against the government,
effectively admitting its failure so far to boost attendance at its
rallies and promising to “rethink” its strategy.

Opposition leaders assured several thousand supporters in Yerevan
that their two-month campaign against President Robert Kocharian
will resume with a fresh momentum two weeks later. They also remained
uncompromising in demanding Kocharian’s resignation. “We reaffirm our
resolve to continue our struggle for the establishment of democracy
and the rule of law in Armenia,” the Artarutyun bloc and the National
Unity Party (AMK) said in a statement read out to the crowd.

“During these two weeks we will completely reassess the situation,
regroup our forces and starting from June 4 will hold permanent
rallies, marches and sit-ins until Robert Kocharian’s resignation,”
Artarutyun’s Albert Bazeyan said.

The opposition leaders said during their previous unsanctioned rally on
May 14 that they will stage another march towards Kocharian’s official
residence on the city’s Marshal Baghramian Avenue if they mobilize
“a critical mass of supporters.” One of them, Victor Dallakian,
admitted on Friday that they have yet to achieve that.

“If all of the people standing here stay [on Marshal Baghramian Avenue]
throughout the night there will be a critical mass,” Dallakian told
RFE/RL. “But they won’t. We must make sure they do. Everything must
be well prepared.”

“We will go [to the presidential palace] only once,” he added.

The opposition supporters already marched up the avenue but were
stopped from approaching Kocharian’s residence by heavily armed
riot police on April 12. There were still between 2,000 and 3,000 of
them on the street in the early hours of April 13 when the protest
was violently broken up by baton-wielding security forces using
water cannons, stun grenades and, according to some eyewitnesses,
electric-shock equipment. Scores of demonstrators were arrested and
seriously injured.

Artarutyun and the AMK have since repeatedly promised to lay another
siege to the presidential palace, but have avoided doing that so far.
Some local commentators have concluded that their campaign has lost
momentum. But the opposition leaders disagreed, with Bazeyan claiming
that the street protests have weakened the ruling regime and Dallakian
alleging that Kocharian is “widely hated” by the population.

Another prominent oppositionist, Aram Sarkisian, sounded, as always,
even more self-confident. “Dear people, I wish you patience. We
will indeed remove Kocharian with our rallies and his departure is
imminent,” he said.