By Ruben Meloyan
A representative of the only opposition faction in Armenia’s parliament on Thursday sounded optimistic about possibilities of defusing the current political crisis, but warned that the crisis may only escalate unless the authorities match words with action.
Stepan Safarian, of the Heritage party, based his optimism on new President Serzh Sarkisian’s speech during his inauguration party the previous day in which the new head of state listed actions to be taken next.
“I think there is an opportunity today to overcome the crisis created in Armenia through real steps,” Safarian told reporters. “Otherwise, the authorities may find themselves in ten times as big and undesirable a crisis than the deadlock that has been created for the country’s political opposition today.”
Safarian thinks that while it is only fair to give the new president a 100-day period in office for evaluations, some issues need prompt solutions.
“There are things, first of all such as ensuring human rights, immediately releasing political prisoners, for which, I think, ten days are enough to see how far the words of the current authorities match with their actions,” the opposition lawmaker added.
In his inauguration speech on Wednesday Sarkisian sought to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Armenians who voted for other presidential candidates, including former president Levon Ter-Petrosian. “A part of our people supported other candidates, and I now appeal to them: it was your right to vote for someone other than me, but I do not have the right not to be your president,” he, in particular, said, and then suggested: “Even if a wall of misunderstanding stands between us, I urge you to join us in eliminating that wall.”
Aram Sarkisian, the leader of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, called for snap presidential elections “to eliminate the wall” that currently exists between the government and the opposition. He added that if Sarkisian tried to “eliminate the wall” that way, he would only welcome that. But before that, he said, to ensure dialogue, the authorities must show their goodwill to release all arrested oppositionists.
“[Serzh] Sarkisian’s situation is not enviable. He faces a limitless number of problems,” Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh) told RFE/RL. “But his main problem is within this society…Our society has lost all faith in electoral processes and Serzh Sarkisian is also to blame for this,” Sarkisian added.
Stepan Demirchian, the leader of the People’s Party of Armenia that also supported Ter-Petrosian during the February presidential election, admits that there is a great divide between society and its rulers. “All this was mentioned in yesterday’s speech, but overcoming a crisis implies concrete steps,” he said in an RFE/RL interview. “Time will show whether they are ready to take real steps or not.”
But talking to RFE/RL, Ter-Petrosian spokesman Arman Musinian said he expected nothing more than some ‘cosmetic changes’ intended as eyewash for the international community. “People know well that they deal with a ‘gangster system’. And if this ‘gangster system’ does not realize this, it is their problem. There will be no [real] change,” he said.