YEREVAN (Combines Sources)—More than 10,000 people flocked to Liberty Square Friday to attend a widely publicized anti-government rally organized by three opposition political parties represented in the country’s National Assembly.
Leaders from the Heritage Party, Prosperous Armenia Party and the Armenian National Congress told those in attendance that uniting around the goal of regime change will enable the country to move forward and initiate necessary reforms to combat corruption.
Heritage leader Raffi Hovannisian urged protesters to hold Armenia’s leadership accountable, while former president Levon Ter-Petrosian of the Armenian National Congress urged the people to rally behind the mission of toppling President Serzh Sarkisian and his regime.
Prosperous Armenia Party chairman Gagik Tsarukian was welcomed by loud cheers and applause. He, too, pointed to the need for regime change and widespread reforms to advance Armenia’s priorities and embolden the population to take control of their destiny.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which has been active with the rally organizers on advancing the opposition agenda, did not take part in the rally, which was also critical of the constitutional reforms being advanced by the government. The ARF has stated that it supports the reform package put forth late last spring, while the other opposition forces claim that the reforms are aimed at prolonging the rule of the current regime in Armenia.
Maria Titizian, managing editor of CivilNet, spoke to Al Jazeera saying that aside from the large number of protesters, what made Friday’s rally unusual was that three parties from Armenia’s normally fragmented opposition came together.
“We’ve come to a point where a majority of the population is really dissatisfied with the quality of living and the level of impunity and corruption, and they’re desperate for change,” Titizian told Al Jazeera.
“My concern is that changing the people on the top is not going to bring fundamental change, unless there is fundamental institutional change, impunity is eradicated and there is rule of law in the country. We’ve had several cases of high-level politicians getting away with crimes, just being assigned other portfolios,” she added.
The organizers vowed to continue the rallies and protests, Tsarukian promising the public that he will outline his party’s vision for Armenia at the next gathering.
The Yerevan rally was the culmination of a series of similar protests staged at various regions in Armenia outside Yerevan. A rally in Gumri Wednesday drew an unusually large crowd, signaling that the public’s dismay in the current regime was widespread around the country.
The rally was held on the same day that Armenia signed the membership agreement to join the Eurasian Economic Union. The organizers of the rally did not touch on this controversial move, despite earlier calls for a more balanced economic and political strategy by Armenia.