YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Opposition party leader Raffi Hovannisian rallied hundreds of supporters in Yerevan on Friday in what he called the start of a new campaign of street protests aimed at changing Armenia’s government.
Hovannisian said that Armenian opposition and civic groups can achieve regime change and thereby “save our country” as early as this year if they join forces. “We can’t carry on like this,” he said. “We all know that separately … we won’t achieve anything. That is why I propose that we change our approach and methodology before it’s too late.”
“We must do it together and we must do it this year,” the leader of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party told supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. He said this applies to not only the opposition but also youth activists demonstrating against higher public transport prices and university tuition fees as well as veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war campaigning for pension rises.
Hovannisian, who was President Serzh Sarkisian’s main challenger in last February’s presidential election, announced that he will hold another rally in the square on August 29 before heading to the northern cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor the following day. He said he will then proceed to the southern Syunik province to campaign for a Zharangutyun candidate running for parliament.
“By September 23 we will have a new situation in Armenia,” declared Hovannisian.
Hovannisian already tried to bring the Sarkisian administration to resign with street protests after the disputed presidential election, which he says was rigged by the authorities. That campaign fizzled out amid a lack of support shown by other opposition parties. The latter complained that Hovannisian never came up with a clear plan of actions.
Those opposition groups made similar arguments when they responded to Hovannisian’s invitations to join his latest “civil assembly” in Liberty Square. None of their representatives attended Friday’s rally.
Hovannisian downplayed their absence. “My impression is that the coming weeks and months will see a process of coordination,” he told journalists. “I know that that will be difficult, but broadly speaking, everyone realizes that Armenia needs big changes.”
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), another major opposition party, on Friday likewise announced plans to try to consolidate the opposition for a new anti-government effort. Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutiun leader, accused the authorities of leading the country to ruin.
“If they think that they have four or five years’ time they are badly mistaken,” Rustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The trends which we can now see in the society can generate force majeure situations. And I’m not even talking about external challengers that are already visible.”
Raffi, dude, the game is over. It’s like Dan Marino trying to replay the Superbowl against Joe Montana. Whether fair or unfair, you have lost. Just regroup and try again in the next election. If the election was fair, this is unethical. If the election wasn’t fair, and it likely wasn’t, don’t beat your head against a wall. You chose to go into politics, which is itself a dirty profession, at par with prostitution per Ronald Reagan. Don’t expect to deal with the likes of Mother Theresa. Politics often plays by dirty rules and, as a non-native, you couldn’t muster up sufficient stratagems that are successful in that country to win. I feel for you and think you would have done a better job; but, at this point, all civilized political opponents accept the outcome (although they may disagree with it) and move on. At this point, the only thing you can do by these protests is ruin your reputation.
frankly, i’m tired of hovanissian .He is nothing but a sad hasbeen of rabble rousing whinning and misleading tactics that can only lead to Armenia’s destruction. the ARF is too good to destroy their reputation by supporting this egomaniac
Authoritarian regimes always count on the fatigue, submission and ultimate surrender of well-meaning people over time. Certain commentators unfortunately prove that those in power in Armenia who manipulated and misappropriated the will of the people counted exactly right. They counted on some of you to give up and now, whether it was your intention or not, you have made the bad look good and the good look selfish. How upsidedown! If some get tired of fighting for truth and resign themselves to cynicism and inactivity, then that’s their choice. But just because they’ve given up on the quest for democracy in Armenia does not mean that Raffi and so many others should break or fold. Instead, the fact that he’s still there working for a unified opposition tells us that the current authoritarian regime misjudged the wherewithal of Raffi’s goodwill. And as for the ARF’s good reputation in the Diaspora, it is something, unfortunately, that does not resonate in the Republic of Armenia. Does that mean, then, that the ARF should just bow out? I don’t think so. There is much in common betweem the democratic and nationalistic ideals embraced by Raffi and advocated by the ARF. A natural fit. All it takes is for fewer people to poo-poo the great possibilities of such unity and faith.