Thousands of Armenians gathered Sunday in Liberty Square in Yerevan for a third day of rallying in support of the official runner up of the presidential election Raffi Hovannisian, who called the rally a “manifestation of love and victory”.
Hovannisian and his supporters say he was robbed of last Monday’s election in which official counts show him losing to incumbent President Serzh Sargyan by about 59 percent to 37 percent.
“Liberty Square recognizes no party any more, since here stand Armenian people, who in the past elections voted for the Heritage, Dashnaktsutyun, ANC, Prosperous Armenia and even for the Republican Party,” said Hovanissian. “Here stand people, who even spoiled their vote, who did not vote, here with us are the breath of 1988 and the spirit of 2008. Here with us are the three presidents of Armenia, elected by the people, Vazgen Manukyan, Karen Demirchyan, Stepan Demirchyan. We won’t find parties any more in Liberty Square, but will find those who recognize that the master of our country is the Armenian people and we are together until victory. Even Heritage (founded by Hovannisian) is not a party any more, but is an order. Оur only salvation is in our unity.”
“And today, in Noah’s land a new flood is going to happen, a pure one, a kind one, but at the same time a strong, historical flood which comes to clean our country from mud, baseness, lies. And under the wave of which hatred, evil, slavery, jealousy, servility will be drowned . . . “
The official declaration of the February 18 vote is expected tomorrow by the Central Election Commission. Meanwhile, Hovannisian has called for another rally February 28.
While calling for unity by opposition forces, Hovannisian’s calls for mass gatherings are for many a reminder of a 2008 standoff that eventually led to the worst post-election violence in independent Armenia’s history, when 10 people were killed, hundreds wounded and dozens jailed.
This season’s protest has been dubbed the “Barevolution”. “Barev” means “hello” in Armenian, and is a takeoff on Hovannisian’s campaigning methods, as he spent the campaign walking door-to-door to businesses and greeting people in the streets. No Armenian politician had ever used such campaign strategy and it resulted in Hovannisian gaining more percentage of votes in a general election than any opposition candidate since Vazgen Manukyan polled 40 percent in 1996.
Police had warned that Sunday’s rally was unauthorized, as no municipal license had been issued. Hovannisian apologized for the unsanctioned rally, and thanked police for allowing the meeting, providing security and switching on the electricity to give a chance to people to gather.