In a rare manifestation of discord within its ranks, the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) criticized last Friday its largest branch in the United States for deciding to boycott an upcoming event in Los Angeles to be attended by President Serzh Sarkissian.
(Editor’s note: The ARF Western District will boycott only the Armenia’s 20th anniversary celebration banquet)
Sarkissian is expected to visit the U.S in late September to address the UN General Assembly in New York and meet with representatives of the influential Armenian-American community. He will attend an official opening ceremony of the newly-purchased consulate building on Central Avenue in Glendale and the banquet organized by the Armenian Consulate in Los Angeles and dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.
ARF Western U.S District Committee announced late last Thursday that its representatives will not take part in the celebration, in protest against Sarkissian’s track record in office. It said his presence there will cast a shadow on the idea of independence and denigrate the struggle of our people for the restoration of justice.
In an unusually strongly worded statement issued late on Thursday, the statement described the Armenian President as a “discredited” individual who “tramples democracy and democratic values underfoot” in order to ensure “the reproduction of the criminal regime”.
The statement went on to accuse the Sarkissian government, of which Dashnaktsutyun was a part until April 2009, of committing “blatant human rights violations,” controlling the judiciary and sponsoring “oligarchs that continue ti relentlessly plunder our people” in Armenia. It also condemned the government’s conciliatory policies towards Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Opening Dashnaktsutyun congress in Yerevan in late June, Hrant Markarian, the de facto head of the Bureau, called for a “systemic regime change” in Armenia but avoided personal attacks on Sarkissian. He made clear that the ARF will not seek to topple the president with sustained street demonstrations and other radical actions.
A declaration adopted by the congress likewise stopped short of demanding Sarkissian’s resignation.
ARF quit Armenia’s government coalition in 2009 in protest against Sarkissian’s controversial policy of rappraochement with Turkey, rather than his human rights or socioeconomic records.
(Part of the article is by Emil Daniyelian of Radio Liberty)