Armenian Opposition Set To Stage "Velvet Revolution"

Lusine Barseghyan

Haykakan Zhamanak
July 22 2008

It will be a velvet revolution

[Correspondent] Mr Zurabyan, how do you intend to hold a rally on 1
August and where?

[Zurabyan] The rally is planned to be held either on Liberty Square
[in central Yervan] or near Matenadaran [a museum in central Yerevan]
and a march is planned.

[Passage omitted: Zurabyan opposes the opinion that the summer
tranquillity will influence the rally]

[Correspondent] Mr Zurabyan, many people nowadays believe that the
government can be replaced only through a revolution. Do you still
stick to your opinion that it is possible to gain power through
political means?

Armenian opposition to stage velvet revolution

[Zurabyan] But do civilized revolutions not take place? We can see
the following: if the government does not offer political solutions in
order to eliminate this deep political crisis, then we should stage a
velvet revolution in our country. In the long run what were the velvet
revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1988 and 1989 if not a very civilized
revolt of civil society against the totalitarian regime? They reached
their goal via an exclusively civilized and peaceful way. Generally,
police regimes cannot survive if they do not resort to Saddam-type
repression, that is, when thousands of people are arrested, shot and
so on. That is a totalitarian regime which either becomes a perfect
one or ceases to exist.

[Correspondent] Many believe today that one should give a chance to
[President] Serzh Sargsyan because he makes such steps. You also gave
him an opportunity, but it seems nothing positive has happened during
that period, will you continue to give opportunities or not?

[Zurabyan] We really gave Serzh Sargsyan a chance. We were really ready
to eliminate the roughness of the political struggle, if we could see
Sargsyan’s frank intention to solve the political crisis. This first
of all refers to the release of political prisoners. If he had taken
this step, I believe there would have been no round-the-clock sit-in
protest today in Yerevan, and we would not have raised so strictly
the issue of an early presidential election. In fact nothing is an
end in itself. Maybe if the current government manages to solve
issues related to democratization and activities of democratic
institutions, it could become an acceptable one – power cannot be
an end in itself. However by giving this chance we also provided an
opportunity to everyone to see for themselves that this is not the
government that can carry out these tasks. They are not using this
chance simply because they are not able to ensure democracy within
the country. Neither corruption will be eliminated nor any other issue
will be solved without democracy. Generally, only a government which
won a mandate of the people can carry out reforms. Serzh Sargsyan
did not win the mandate of the people.

[Correspondent] So, the major demand of the 1 August rally will be
Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation?

[Zurabyan] The major slogan will be Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation.

[Passage omitted: Zurabyan reiterates that Sargsyan has failed to
take positive steps]

[Correspondent] There are reports that you are sending activists
of the [Popular] Movement to training for election observers or
representatives. Does it mean that you are already preparing for an
early presidential election?

Opposition demands early presidential election

[Zurabyan] If we demand an early election, it is very logical that
we also prepare for an early election.

[Correspondent] A parliamentary or a presidential one?

[Zurabyan] Our priority demand, of course, is an early presidential
election. However, generally, we should be prepared for an election
of any level.

[Correspondent] The Russian press recently periodically mentions that
an early presidential election should be held in Armenia, particularly,
on 21 September [Armenia’s Independence Day]. Do you have grounds to
make such statements?

[Zurabyan] I believe that the grounds for such statements are quite
clear – there is no legitimate power in Armenia nowadays, and due to
this we have a crisis that does not slow down. People are not calming
down, people do not accept the current government as a legitimate
one. So, what trend there can be if people do not accept the existing
government – only an early election.

[Correspondent] Now I am asking about the 21 September? Why is this
very date being mentioned?

August rally to be crucial in opposition struggle

[Zurabyan] I believe it is just a symbolic date which will help
demonstrate the unity of the nation. It will be good if this happens
on that date. However, I do not believe that one should stick to a
date or, in general, pin hopes on some specific date. For instance,
1 August is a very important date. Many people and we pin hopes on 1
August – this day will be crucial in our struggle. This day can have
a very big political effect, but no-one can say how the events will
develop on a specific day.

[Correspondent] There are talks among the public that [former
President] Levon Ter-Petrosyan is holding secret negotiations
with Serzh Sargsyan, that their actions are coordinated and that
Ter-Petrosyan will concede sooner or later. What would you say
regarding these reports?

[Zurabyan] Absurd. I am sure that these reports are spread by
the government itself – to weaken the political pillars of the
Movement. However, our people are quite wise and will not believe
such reports. We have established a very strong movement, so strong
that even people who do not take part in this movement accept that
even if the government is trying to do something today, even if it
is trying to create an imitation of its actions, it is trying to win
people’s trust, it is doing this only because it is afraid of this
strong civil movement. This is already a serious achievement. Of
course, we will not limit ourselves to that. The movement will get
stronger; it is getting stronger every day. I am not a Nostradamus or
a fortune-teller to tell you the day of our victory, but this victory
is near and it will happen, I have no doubts regarding this.