By Ruzanna Stepanian
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian appeared to have launched a new offensive against Armenia’s government on Tuesday when his political allies demanded that Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian step down ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
A new umbrella structure uniting pro-Ter-Petrosian political parties and individuals said Sarkisian’s resignation is essential for creating a level playing field for all presidential candidates and ensuring that the February 19 vote is democratic.
“If the candidates holding one or another [government] post want to participate in a free and fair election and are concerned with the country’s future, they must resign their posts,” said Garnik Markarian, a leader of the grouping called Legitimate President-2008. “This primarily applies to Serzh Sarkisian.”
Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) are certain to dismiss the call. The HHK heavily relied on its tight control of many government bodies to secure a landslide victory in last May’s parliamentary elections and is widely expected to resort to the so-called “administrative resources” during the presidential vote as well.
Markarian, who leads one of a dozen opposition parties supporting Ter-Petrosian’s return to power, said the new opposition movement will stage rallies in a bid to force Sarkisian to quit as prime minister. He said it will also take actions aimed at preventing possible vote rigging. In particular, Armenians will be urged to “rise up” and “break the hand attempting to rig” the election, he added.
In the words of Lyudmila Sargsian, another Legitimate President-2008 leader, the movement will also launch a public relations campaign aimed at persuading people not to sell their votes to pro-government candidates. She said other opposition candidates should also join the new grouping if they are interested in a clean vote.
“If they want to get elected, they have to join us because the other camp shows no desire to hold a free and fair election,” Sargsian told a news conference.
HHK leaders say the Armenian government is committed to ensuring the freedom and fairness of the presidential ballot. They point to its conduct of the May elections which was praised by Western observers.
(Photolur photo: Ter-Petrosian supporters rally in Yerevan.)