The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) claimed on Friday that President Serzh Sarkisian is facing mounting popular anger and international pressure and will soon cave in to opposition demands for snap national elections.
A leading member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) laughed off the claim, saying that is designed to boost the sagging moral of opposition supporters.
“The regime was stronger one month ago than it is now,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator. “Because of blows to dealt to Serzh Sarkisian’s regime over the past month, he is now in a terribly panicky mood.
“But this is only the beginning as much more serious processes are expected in the coming months. All the prerequisites are in place to deepen the regime’s panic and create favorable conditions for the victory of the popular [opposition] movement,” he told a news conference.”
Zurabian went on to predict an “outburst of popular protests” which he said will lead to the Sarkisian administration’s downfall. “This isolated regime will not be able to respond to that outburst in a way it did on March 1, 2008, when it was enjoying the international community’s full support,” he told a news conference, referring to the suppression of post-election demonstrations staged in Yerevan by the HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Zurabian claimed that the protests will be sparked by a “rapid deterioration” of the socioeconomic situation in Armenia, which is still reeling from last year’s global recession.
Ter-Petrosian already predicted in March 2009 that Sarkisian and his governing coalition “will destroy themselves” in the next few months after failing to prevent a “drastic fall in living standards.” “I am deeply convinced that the country is simply descending into an abyss,” he said at the time.
According to official statistics, the Armenian economy contracted by over 14 percent in 2009 but is on course to expand by about 4 percent this year. Both the Armenian government and the International Monetary Fund say the renewed growth will accelerate in 2011.
In Zurabian’s words, Sarkisian is under growing pressure from the West to accept an unpopular solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and release all of the remaining “political prisoners.” “The situation around the political prisoners is escalating,” said the Ter-Petrosian associate.
Ter-Petrosian has repeatedly accused Western powers and structures of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Armenia for geopolitical reasons. Speaking at a recent HAK rally in Yerevan, he said their stance is tantamount to “a crime against the Armenian people.”
Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling HHK, was quick to dismiss Zurabian’s statements. “He just uttered some buoyant words as an oppositionist, but they were not meant for us,” Sahakian told journalists.
“The authorities have a firm fist and that fist is not unclenching, which is necessary for our nation and our state,” he said. Besides, added Sahakian, “We are not a revolutionary people.”
HHK leaders were just as dismissive of previous predictions of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections made by top representatives of Armenia’s leading opposition force. That the current Armenian parliament will be able to complete its five-year term in May 2012 is also acknowledged by some prominent HAK figures such as former Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian.
“The Armenian opposition is preparing for the parliamentary elections of 2012,” Arzumanian stated at a news conference on Wednesday. He was skeptical about the opposition’s electoral chances, citing lingering disagreements between the HAK and other major opposition groups.