GYUMRI, Armenia (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s three main opposition parties rallied thousands of supporters in Gyumri on Wednesday, ending a two-week regional tour aimed at drumming up popular support for their larger anti-government protests planned in Yerevan.
The Prosperous Armenia (BHK), Armenian National Congress (AHK), and Zharangutyun parties again made clear that “regime change” is the main aim of their joint campaign. Senior BHK figures reiterated in that regard that their party, the second largest in parliament, is now officially seeking to end President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.
“I said it [on Monday] and am now repeating that this government must go,” the BHK’s Naira Zohrabian told the crowd that gathered in a central Gyumri square. “We must not allow this government to cling to power for 10 more years with constitutional amendments. This must be the common agenda uniting you and us.”
“The authorities are to blame for the situation we are in,” said Stepan Markarian, another senior representative of the influential party headed by businessman Gagik Tsarukian.
“Do you want regime change? Do you want it now?” Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman said, prompting “yes” cries from the crowd. “Your demand has been formulated,” he went on. “So we are going to realize that demand.”
The three parties are scheduled to take their campaign to Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Friday. It is not clear, however, whether that rally will be followed by more anti-government protests.
The opposition trio began touring Armenian regions on Sept. 25 in an effort to raise public awareness of their campaign and ensure strong attendance at the Yerevan rally. Levon Zurabian, an HAK leader, spoke of a “velvet revolution” unfolding in Armenia.
Speaking at the Gyumri rally, Zurabian claimed that the Armenian authorities are “really scared” of Friday’s rally, which will coincide with a key Eurasian Economic Union summit in Minsk. He said the Sarkisian administration has told the Russian government that the Armenian opposition is keen to disrupt Armenia’s accession to the Russian-led bloc. “The same people then went to the Americans and told them that the opposition has scheduled a rally for October 10 to force Serzh Sarkisian to join the Eurasian Union,” added Zurabian.