Opposition Parties Unite to Form National Accord Alliance

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–A grouping of seven opposition political parties in Armenia–representing a broad spectrum of political forces came together Saturday to form the National Accord Alliance which replaced the National Alliance–formed during the presidential election campaign.

The National Accord Alliance will work under one umbrella with the aim of bringing about change in the socio-economic and political life of Armenia through democratic and legal means.

The coalition includes the National Reform party–the National Democratic Union–the National Self-Determination Union–the Democratic Party of Armenia–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–the Constitutional Rights Union and the Scientific–Industrial and Civil Union of Armenia.

In a declaration emanating from Saturday’s session–the National Accord Alliance and that the grouping was formed since the current authorities were "making it impossible to resolve problems–which threatened Armenia’s national security–facing the Armenian people; and given that the 1995 and 1996 elections and the forced approval of a constitution were illegal; and aiming to bring the country out of political and economic crises."

The declaration further explained that the group considered new elections for president–National Assembly and regional heads–as well as the approval of a new constitution a priority.

The imperative of the National Accord Alliance was "to guarantee the fair and balanced operation of political organization; the re-establishment of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s legal rights; an end to politically motivated trials and persecution; the immediate release of all political prisoners; and the lifting of the state monopoly on radio and television."

Aside from the seven major political parties–more than 20 organizations have also joined the National Accord Alliance.

During the rally at Yerevan’s Theater NDU chairman and former presidential candidate Vazgen Manoukian addressed the crowd saying that there had not been any positive movement in Armenia–adding that it was wrong to think that by appointing prime ministers–the situation would change.

"These types of regimes do not change from the inside. Only the people can change the regime," asserted Manoukian.

"Armenia–today–is on the path of dangerous self-alienation. We do not believe that outside forces should interfere in our domestic issues–we–however–believe that our state should adopt those inherent values which are play in developed nations," commented Manoukian.

The NDU leader stressed the imperative of meeting with all facets of society and–one-by-one–address the pertinent issues facing the Armenian nation.

"If the people truly support this ideal–then we must choose a day and to stand up for our rights. We must stand up and endure," added Manoukian.

Other speaker also emphasized the importance of continuity in the struggle which commenced with the National Alliance prior and during the elections–and which has continued a natural progression into the formation of the National Accord Alliance.

ARF representative Rouben Hakopian outlined that the Alliance did not have a socio-economic leaning–but rather a political cause.

"[The Alliance] has pledged to realize political changes within the leadership," stated Hakopian.

The Alliance decided that it would endorse ARF Executive Council member and co-defendant in the so-called "Trial of 31" case Vahan Hovanessian’s candidacy for the National Assembly seat and dispatched an appeal to the justice ministry to allow the incarcerated ARF leader to run a campaign. The Alliance also called on the Central Electoral Commission to respect elections laws and international norms and principles on elections and voting procedures.

In conclusion–the Alliance issued a communiqu–calling on the Armenian people to rise together to protect the interests of the nation.

Citing worsening conditions within the government–including the perpetuation of relations with underworld elemen’s–the decline in the quality of life and education–as well as an increase in brutal political persecution–the Alliance urged the people to determine their own fate and heed the call for immediate action.

Opposition leaders said they planned to hold a rally in Yerevan on April 4 and predicted 100,000 people would attend. "This won’t be an isolated action. It will be followed by meetings and protests all over the republic," Manoukian told hundreds of opposition activists crammed into a dingy auditorium in central Yerevan.

"If the authorities agree to sit down at the negotiating table and talk about our deman’s–then good," he said.

Speakers said they wanted to organize "Belgrade Spring" type protests similar to those in Serbia earlier this year. Protesters forced changes to local administrations in the capital Belgrade and other parts of Serbia with massive daily rallies after authorities annulled a string of opposition electoral victories in local elections in November.

NSDU chairman Paruir Hayrikian party–called Ter-Petrosyan a "criminal."If someone steals votes–then he is a criminal," Hayrikian told Reuters.

"We are fully united. Of course we have our differences. Do you have differences with your wife?," Hayrikian asked.

Manoukian said Ter-Petrosyan’s appointment of Robert Kocharian as his new Prime Minister last week would not affect opposition attempts to force new elections.

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