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Last Friday saw the opposition’s meeting take place as scheduled. This has so far been Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s second meeting after his return to active politics. So far the only claimed number of people attending has been Haykakan Zhamanak’s 80 – 85 thousand. This however is most probably grossly overestimated. The paper, actively supporting Mr. Ter-Petrosyan and his team, had cited 30-35 thousand as the number of people attending the first meeting, however eyewitnesses suggest that the actual numbers were not substantially different, with this Friday’s meeting attracting only slightly more people.
It is nevertheless noteworthy, that the number of people attending the second meeting was not less than the first one. It had been suggested, that Mr. Ter-Petrosyan’s first appearance would draw a substantial crowd because of the sensation – it has been his first public speech in ten years.
With electronic media largely unavailable, except for several radio stations and regional TV stations, the team relied on leaflets and posters to get the message across. As was the case before the previous meeting, problems arose with this again. Some young people were detained by police as they were dispersing leaflets. Narek Galstyan, the leader of the youth wing of one of the parties supporting Ter-Petrosyan, was beaten by unidentified people, after first being detained by police.
Also noteworthy was the speech of Khachatur Sukiasyan, a businessman and legislator who’s businesses fell under immediate fire from tax authorities after declaring support for Mr. Ter-Petrosyan. It has already been argued, that Mr. Sukiasyan is destined to become Armenia’s Khodorkovsky. This is however a likely overstatement since public support for him appears to be high and the authorities will probably have few options other than applying moderate pressure.
In his speech Mr. Ter-Petrosyan talked extensively about the energy crisis of the early nineties. He vaguely apologized, but only after distending himself from almost all of the blame, citing the Nagorno-Karabakh war as the main reason behind the crisis. Also, in an outright populist move, he apologized from bringing the current authorities to power.
Mr. Ter-Petrosyan also declared that none of the figures of his administration are aiming for government posts. It was however unclear if he was expressing the positions of those once around him, or it is his decision to keep them away. On a final note, destined to resound with many, he read out a list of opposition leaders and declared that if all of them unite around him, he will, if elected, promise to step down in three years, leaving the stage open for them. Since apart from others the list contained Vazgen Manukyan’s name, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Ter-Petrosyan will be forced to make the promise, since Mr. Manukyan is probably the last man to unite around him.