Opinion: Let the splintering begin for Armenia’s opposition

The best news we’ve heard lately from Armenia’s anemic opposition is that it was suspending rallies for the summer.

Unfortunately, opposition leaders were no better at fulfilling that promise than at any others they have made since trying to reinvent a movement. Leaders now say we are due for more dirt in the already dusty Yerevan skies when the opposition rallies July 2 – strengthened by the reluctantly received amnesty of key members this past week.

In February 2008 and, especially, in March 2008, the opposition had legitimate claim against being cheated out, then bullied out, kicked out (literally), shot out and brutally beaten out of relevance in Armenian politics.

We listened to battered voices with sympathetic hearts and supported calls for international attention to the cause of genuine political prisoners.

The ruling regime was wrong to hold them, while nary a policeman nor special forces combatant was held accountable for clear misuse of force witnessed by our journalists and others on that horrible March 1 that left wounds this whole republic is far from closing regardless of political persuasion.

Again on May 31, the opposition was overwhelmed by fraud during the Yerevan City Council election.

It reacted as if this were the first time an election has been stolen by authorities in Armenia. In fact cheating has been the path to success in every election since (now) opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan utilized deceit to maintain his presidential power in 1996.

Ter-Petrosyan champions a dead cause (regime change), supported by lieutenants Stepan Demirchyan and Aram Sargsyan whose primary credentials are dead relatives. (In reference to the latter: Has everyone forgotten that when Vazgen Sargsyan was alive he was as reviled as he is now beatified?)

Whatever dignity “LTP” might have pocketed when he returned from political seclusion in October 2007 was spent when he refused to accept his party’s 13 seats in the Yerevan City Council following the May election.

It is likely the opposition would have earned more spots had the election been fair. But, by now, shouldn’t any challenger to power in this country have a contingency plan for when he is cheated out of contention?

Ter-Petrosyan reacted as expected of a man more intent on legacy than leadership. By refusing the Council mandates he effectively told the thousands of his supporters that his pride is more important than their votes.

This week, the skeletons of the opposition leadership rattled their bones with fervent concern over whether the opposition is being splintered. Let us hope so.

And let the splintering begin at the top, as so it appears.

Armenia deserves, needs, a legitimate opposition just as it needs a legitimate ruling regime. Pity that neither appears at hand.