The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) insisted on Wednesday that it remains committed to forcing snap elections in Armenia despite gearing up for an unprecedented dialogue with President Serzh Sarkisian.
“The main aim of the Armenian National Congress … is the dismantling of the [ruling] kleptocracy and the formation of a legitimate government accountable to the people through pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator.
Zurabian downplayed Sarkisian allies’ insistence that the holding of fresh elections can not be on the agenda of negotiations between the Armenian government and the opposition bloc led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
“What else should they say?” he told a news conference. “That’s what parties always do. They formulate their most radical positions before negotiations.”
“Imagine what would happen if they announced the opposite before negotiations,” added Zurabian.
Speaking at a series of HAK demonstrations held in March and April, Ter-Petrosian stated that his bloc will be ready to engage in a dialogue with the Sarkisian administration if it frees all of his loyalists remaining in prison, promises a more objective inquiry into the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan and guarantees opposition access to the city’s Liberty Square.
The authorities have met at least two of these demands. Sarkisian ordered law-enforcement bodies to investigate the unrest in a “more meticulous” fashion before the Yerevan municipality sanctioned the most recent HAK rally held in Liberty Square on April 28.
The Armenian president also signaled the impending release of the six jailed oppositionists the day before the rally. One of them was set free on Monday.
Addressing thousands of supporters on April 28, Ter-Petrosian expressed confidence that all “political prisoners” will be free by the next HAK protest scheduled for May 31. He made clear that the HAK will not seek another “physical confrontation” with the Armenian authorities and will opt for dialogue instead.
This stance disappointed some of the demonstrators, who hoped for a renewed opposition push for power. About a hundred of them refused to leave the square, threatening to stage a non-stop sit-in there. They reluctantly dispersed after Zurabian and other HAK figures urged them to wait until May 31.
“I think that there will be no sit-in after all because I’m sure that political process are developing in such a way that both Sasun Mikaelian and Nikol Pashinian will deliver speeches [in Liberty Square] on that day,” Zurabian said, referring to the most prominent opposition detainees. “If not, I will have no choice but to join the sit-in,” he added.
Other Armenian groups, which are increasingly at loggerheads with the HAK, have portrayed Ter-Petrosian’s latest speech as further proof that he is no longer fighting for “regime change” in the country. They say he deliberately put forward “easy” demands in order to be able to back away from another standoff with the government.
HAK representatives dismiss such claims.