By Ruzanna Stepanian
President Serzh Sarkisian’s overtures to Turkey and Azerbaijan have earned him an international blank check to finally crush his political opponents and are forcing the latter to change their strategy, an Armenian opposition leader said on Thursday.
Levon Zurabian, a senior member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), said that with his diplomatic initiatives Sarkisian has scored important points abroad that are enabling him to legitimize his authority in the eyes of the international community.
“Because of these circumstances the Armenian authorities act with greater impunity in their dealings with the people and the opposition,” Zurabian told a news conference. “In essence, the regime of Serzh Sarkisian has received a carte blanche to destroy the opposition.”
The remarks echoed HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s repeated criticism of Western powers for their perceived leniency towards the Armenian government. Ter-Petrosian has singled out their failure to seriously sanction the authorities in Yerevan for their use of lethal force against opposition protesters on March 1 and mass arrests of opposition members.
“I am developing a conviction that the West is not interested in having a legitimate and strong government in Armenia,” Ter-Petrosian charged in July. “The weaker, the more vulnerable, the more Asian, the more undemocratic [that government is,] the better for them.”
“We must not take that as a tragedy,” said Zurabian. “It simply means that the opposition must make serious corrections in its strategy.”
Zurabian did not specify what those changes will be, saying only that opposition supporters must rest assured that Ter-Petrosian and his associates will continue to fight for “the restoration of constitutional order and democracy.” “There will be no deals with these terrorist authorities,” he said.
The Ter-Petrosian-led opposition had pledged to launch this month a fresh campaign of “decisive” actions aimed at toppling the Sarkisian administration and forcing pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections. But Ter-Petrosian and other HAK leaders indicated at their last Yerevan rally on September 15 that they have opted for a more prolonged and less confrontational struggle.