Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday warned President Serzh Sarkisian against signing controversial agreements with Turkey but spoke out against further opposition attempts to topple the government at this point.
Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party has been at the forefront of opposition criticism of the two draft protocols envisaging diplomatic relations and an open border between the two neighboring countries. It considers several key provisions of the deal a sellout of Armenian national interests.
“It is evident that he who signs those documents will resign not only from his presidential post but our homeland,” Hovannisian told a news conference. But he made clear at the same time that Zharangutyun will not immediately campaign for Sarkisian’s resignation if the Turkish-Armenian protocols are signed and implemented after all.
Hovannisian argued that demands for regime change will ring hollow as long as Armenia’s leading opposition forces, including Zharangutyun, remain divided. “I have always been against making demonstrative demands,” he said. “I have my principles. I have been in opposition to all presidents of Armenia.”
“But resignation is something that has to ripen objectively. Demanding is not enough. We need actions, public unity,” added the Zharangutyun leader. He claimed to have tried hard to form a broad-based opposition coalition that would comprise his party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Attempts to bring the three forces together have failed not least because of Dashnaktsutyun’s reluctance to cooperate with the HAK and its top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian. Sarkisian’s exit remains the HAK’s chief priority. Dashnaktsutyun, on the other hand, is making no such demands yet despite its harsh criticism of Sarkisian’s policy on Turkey.
There is also a lack of unity within Zharangutyun itself. Several members of the party’s governing board were recently expelled from Zharangutyun in a bitter dispute that flared up after Hovannisian’s surprise decision about a month ago to resign his parliament seat. Hovannisian, who formally holds no leadership positions within the party, withdrew the resignation just as unexpectedly on Wednesday.
He on Friday again refrained from siding with any of the feuding factions. He said he will initiate early next year an emergency congress of Zharangutyun that will discuss the party discord.
“The issue of my responsibility and confidence in me will also be raised there, and I will address everybody’s behavior,” he said. “I am fed up with resigning and apologizing on behalf of others, be it a president, supporters or party comrades.”