The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Monday brushed aside opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s new conditions for engaging in dialogue with the authorities and his renewed demands for their resignation.
Representatives of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun Party similarly dismissed his fresh pledges to force pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections.
Addressing thousands of supporters at a rally on Friday, Ter-Petrosian said regime change remains the principal aim of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance. He said a dialogue between the HAK and the country’s leadership is now conditional not only on the release of his loyalists remaining in jail but also a proper investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
Armenia’s first president also made clear that such dialogue can only center on ways of holding snap national elections in the country.
“When one talks about dialogue, it is absurd to come up with preconditions,” HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “If you set preconditions, there can’t be any dialogue.”
Sharmazanov argued that even some prominent HAK figures such as former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian now publicly admit that President Serzh Sarkisian and Armenia’s current parliament controlled by the HHK will likely complete their terms in office as planned in 2013 and 2012 respectively.
“If they know there will be no pre-term elections but still call for pre-term elections, then all of their statements are baseless,” he scoffed. “If they haven’t decided among themselves what they want, that is their problem.”
The HAK’s continuing talk of fresh elections was also dismissed by Dashnaktsutyun, a less radical opposition group that has traditionally had a strained rapport with Ter-Petrosian. “He is helping the authorities to further strengthen their positions in our country. This is his hidden goal,” charged Artsvik Minasian, a senior member of the nationalist party.
“The first president is not seeking regime change, the first president is seeking the role of a national leader whereby both the authorities and the opposition will be subordinated to him,” Minasian told RFE/RL.
According to Ruben Hakobian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, fresh elections are extremely unlikely because Armenia’s leading opposition forces are not offering voters “a real alternative” to the Sarkisian administration. “Unfortunately, there is a lack of realism in opposition actions,” Hakobian said.
“We have reached a point where it’s difficult to imagine us carrying on like this,” he told RFE/RL. “In this sense, regime change is necessary. On the other hand, what we have in the political stage today -- I mean the opposition’s and government’s positions -- doesn’t give one reason to presume that the opposition can be so strong politically as to change [the government].”
Zharangutyun’s top leader, Raffi Hovannisian, stated in a July speech that Ter-Petrosian, his successor Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian share responsibility for Armenia’s political and socioeconomic problems. Hovannisian and Dashnaktsutyun leaders have also denounced Ter-Petrosian’s belief that Armenia can not secure its long-term future without making peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
In his latest speech, Ter-Petrosian warned at the same time that the HAK would “resolutely act” against any Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord on Nagorno-Karabakh signed by Sarkisian. He also claimed that Russia is teaming up with Azerbaijan and Turkey to impose a pro-Azerbaijani peace deal on the Armenians.
Sharmazanov laughed off the claim, citing a new defense agreement signed by Armenia and Russia late last month. “Sadly, Mr. Ter-Petrosian did not touch upon this and I don’t know why,” he said. “This [agreement] really constitutes an enhancement of Armenia’s security.”
“He just doesn’t talk about any positive things,” added the ruling party spokesman.