Opposition To Continue Rallies

Armenia: Opposition To Continue Rallies
By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Hrach Melkumian 15/06/2004 01:55

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
June 15 2004

The leadership of the Artarutyun alliance, Armenia’s biggest opposition
group, reaffirmed on Monday its intention to continue anti-government
demonstrations in Yerevan despite a clear loss of momentum its campaign
for regime change.

The bloc’s leaders said the next rally, scheduled for Wednesday, will
go ahead as planned. But it remained unclear whether the opposition
will urge supporters to march towards President Robert Kocharian’s
residence or elsewhere in the city center. They said the decision
will be made during the protest jointly with their allies from the
National Unity Party (AMK).

The two opposition forces had for weeks been promising to lay siege
to the presidential palace. The first such action ended in violence
on the night from April 12-13 when riot police used force to disperse
a crowd of more than 2,000 people.

At their last rally on June 4 the opposition leaders effectively
abandoned their plans for another “decisive action,” arguing that
they have so far failed to pull crowds big enough to resist security
forces. The move led local observers to conclude that the three-month
campaign to oust Kocharian has failed.

But speaking to RFE/RL over the weekend, the two most popular
oppositionists said they are determined to continue to fight
against what they see as an “illegitimate” regime.” “This is a
difficult process,” Artarutyun’s Stepan Demirchian said. “There may
be different phases, different manifestations. But the process is
certainly irreversible.”

“Illegalities, arbitrary use of force naturally have a depressing
effect on the people. But this does not mean that the opposition
movement is fading away,” AMK leader Artashes Geghamian agreed.

Another prominent opposition figure, Victor Dallakian, said the
opposition made unspecified “tactical mistakes” in its drive for
power, but insisted that its overall strategy of regime change is
justified. But fellow lawmaker Arshak Sadoyan said that the mistakes
were “serious.” He said the opposition should have opted for a more
“muscular struggle” in the face of a tough crackdown unleashed by
the authorities.

Wednesday’s rally is likely to be first opposition action sanctioned
by the authorities. The organizers formally notified the Yerevan
mayor’s office of the planned gathering in accordance with a new
Armenian law. The municipality has voiced no objections yet.

Opposition officials attributed the effective permission to the
presence in Yerevan of a delegation from the Council of Europe.