By Astghik Bedevian
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Tuesday again failed to broker a “dialogue” between the governing coalition and its radical opponents over ways of ending Armenia’s post-election crisis.
In separate letters sent on Monday, Hovannisian invited Ter-Petrosian, President Serzh Sarkisian and the leaders of three parties represented in the Armenian government to talks which he planned to organize in the offices of a Yerevan think-tank the next evening. He suggested that the discussion focus on a “program of reforms” proposed by his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.
The program calls for an end to the government crackdown on the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition and detailed measures which Zharangutyun believes would prevent serious fraud in future Armenian elections. The four-page document also advocates a sweeping reform of Armenia’s judicial and law-enforcement systems and a greater opposition role in legislative affairs.
None of the invited leaders showed up for the discussion, however. Ter-Petrosian reaffirmed through a spokesman his refusal to negotiate with the authorities before their compliance with the recent Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) resolution on Armenia. The resolution demands the release of Ter-Petrosian supporters arrested for political reasons and the launch of an independent investigation into the March 1 clashes in Yerevan.
Sarkisian did not react to the proposal. Both and Ter-Petrosian turned down Hovannisian’s earlier offers to mediate a face-to-face meeting between them. Each of them questioned the other’s commitment to dialogue.
The leaders of the Dashnaktsutyun, Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir parties, the three junior partners in Sarkisian’s coalition, also ignored the Zharangutyun leader’s invitation. Dashnaktsutyun’s Armen Rustamian cited his and fellow party leaders’ busyness. “I don’t think that the people Mr. Hovannisian appealed to are the least busy ones in the country,” he told RFE/RL.
“The leader of our party was in parliament yesterday, and if Raffi Hovannisian had something to tell him he could have done that in person,” said Naira Zohrabian, a parliament deputy from Prosperous Armenia. “Communication by e-mails and text messages is not acceptable to us.”
“We too can write letters tomorrow,” said Heghine Bisharian, an Orinats Yerkir leader. “This style of work won’t succeed.”
Speaking to RFE/RL, Hovannisian countered that he reiterated his offer to Sarkisian and the main government factions in person while attending Monday’s meeting of a presidential working group charged with ensuring Armenia’s compliance with the PACE resolution. “This is the demand of our society,” he said. “What matters is not how one gets invited to this process. What matters is to get it going.”