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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04YEREVAN809 2004-04-05 09:59:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

DESPITE "HOT SPRING IN ARMENIA," REVOLUTION

Tags:   PREL PGOV GG AM 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEREVAN 000809 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/CACEN, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG AM
SUBJECT: DESPITE "HOT SPRING IN ARMENIA," REVOLUTION
UNLIKELY TO BLOOM

REF A) Yerevan 757, B) Yerevan 769



1. (U) Sensitive But Unclassified. Please treat
accordingly.



--------------------------


SUMMARY


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Plans by opposition leaders for a "hot
political spring" appeared to gain momentum in late
March as politicians from both sides raised the level
of rhetoric and hundreds of supporters gathered for the
first set of protest rallies in Armenia's two largest
cities. National Unity Party founder Artashes
Geghamian's announced March 24 that he would join
Stepan Demirchian and the opposition Justice Bloc in
its efforts to oust Kocharian. This union signals the
most cooperation within the opposition since large-
scale protests following the 2003 presidential
election. The GOAM reacted to opposition plans by
reinforcing law enforcement and judicial ranks with
Kocharian loyalists and issuing public statements
saying that it would not permit sustained unrest or
plans for extra-constitutional activities. Despite the
recent surge of momentum, it remains unlikely that the
opposition can create a solid platform that will garner
enough support to unseat President Robert Kocharian.
Lacking a charismatic leader upon whom a majority of
Armenians agree, Armenia's opposition might stir up the
political arena and make it uncomfortable for the GOAM,
but will be hard pressed to replicate a "Rose
Revolution" of their own this Spring. End summary.



--------------------------


NATIONAL UNITY AND JUSTICE BLOC JOIN FORCES


--------------------------





3. (SBU) The alliance of the two largest, and former
rival, opposition blocs foreshadowed what we expect
will be large rallies in early April. Artashes
Geghamanian, leader of the National Unity Party,
announced March 24 that he would join the Justice Bloc
for anti-government protests. Geghamian and Justice
Bloc leader Stepan Demirchian announced that their "Hot
Spring" campaign would officially begin with a rally in
Yerevan April 5, during which they would announce
future plans and rallies leading to "the abolishment of
the illegal regime" and "the restoration of
constitutional order in Armenia." Geghamian had joined
forces with Demirchian for protests following the 2003
election, but the two opposition faction leaders had
seemed increasingly at odds as the year progressed.



--------------------------


MODEST TURNOUT FOR A1+


--------------------------





4. (SBU) In a prelude to "Hot Spring" activities,
several anti-government rallies were held in Yerevan
and Armenia's second largest city, Gyumri, during the
past two weeks. A scuffle broke out between police and
protesters at an opposition rally in Gyumri March 28
(ref A). Roughly 300 supporters of embattled
independent television station A1+ marked the second
anniversary of the station's closing by rallying in
Yerevan April 2. The Yerevan City Police permitted the
rally and accompanying march through Yerevan streets to
proceed without incident, despite earlier GOAM
declarations that it was an "illegal gathering."
(Note: Rally organizers had failed to secure the
necessary permit for the gathering. End Note.)



--------------------------


USING THE GEORGIAN MODEL


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Both the government and opposition have hinted
during press interviews and meetings with us that they
are "drawing lessons" from Georgia's recent "Rose
Revolution" to guide their activities. Demirchian and
Geghamian view Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's
campaign to unseat former President Shevardnadze as a
model for their own efforts. Geghamian and Demirchian
portray their alliance as a reflection of opposition
alliances in Georgia prior to Shevardnadze's
resignation. Opposition leaders have stated in the
press that the tactics of the Georgian opposition,
pressuring the government by keeping their supporters
on the streets in large numbers, can also be employed
to topple the Kocharian regime. For their part, the
Armenian authorities seem intent to not repeat the
perceived failure of the Shevardnadze regime to prevent
an extended period of instability during the protests
that culminated in the Georgian revolution. In the
past week, President Kocharian has placed known
supporters in key administrative and judicial posts
(ref B), and police officials have intervened in
opposition rallies in the regions (ref A).



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Despite the recent surge of momentum, it
remains unlikely that the opposition can create a solid
platform that will garner enough support to unseat
President Robert Kocharian. The Geghamian-Demirchian
union is at best a marriage of convenience unless they
can produce an alternative political platform that
includes solid proposals. Lacking a charismatic leader
upon whom a majority of Armenians can agree, the
opposition might be able to stir up the political arena
but will be hard pressed to replicate a "Rose
Revolution" of their own this Spring. Nonetheless, the
opposition has the capacity to initiate a series of
embarrassing incidents that could well put the GOAM on
the defensive, and how the GOAM chooses to respond will
be critical.
ORDWAY