The Zharangutyun (Heritage) party leader Raffi Hovannisian stepped up his criticism of the rival opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Monday, saying that it has stopped demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on the seventh day of his hunger strike in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, he questioned the HAK’s opposition credentials and suggested that its top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, may be maintaining confidential contacts with the authorities.
Hovannisian pointed to Ter-Petrosian’s speech at the HAK’s March 17 rally in which the ex-president did not cite the conduct of snap elections as a precondition for engaging in a dialogue with the Sarkisian administration.
Ter-Petrosian said the release of all “political prisoners,” a government pledge to properly investigate the 2008 unrest in Yerevan and the lifting of a ban on opposition rallies in Liberty Square could be “sufficient grounds” for negotiating with the authorities. He had presented Armenia’s leadership with a much longer list of demands at the HAK’s previous rally held on March 1.
“There has been a softening of, a departure from [the HAK’s] demands, and this could be attributed to direct or indirect communication and perhaps a change in tactics,” said Hovannisian. “They previously spoke of fresh elections after the resignation of the current president, lectured others on that score, but that resignation [demand] is now gone.”
“If we are to measure things with the HAK’s old standard that he who doesn’t demand the government’s resignation is not in opposition, it can be inferred that the HAK itself is not in opposition. I don’t have such an opinion yet,” he added.
The Zharangutyun leader further claimed that riot police allowed Ter-Petrosian’s bloc to rally supporters in Liberty Square for the first time in three years with Sarkisian’s prior consent.
Ter-Petrosian and his entourage failed to approach or greet Hovannisian as they led thousands of people into the square last Thursday. Hovannisian described that as a deliberate snub.
Some HAK members, for their part, have dismissed his hunger strike as a publicity stunt aimed at deflecting public attention from Ter-Petrosian’s renewed campaign of antigovernment protests. They say Hovannisian has still not clearly formulated his demands addressed to the authorities.
Hovannisian, who served as foreign minister in Ter-Petrosian’s government in 1992, insisted, however, that he is pushing for “a full and pre-term change of government.”