Stepan Safarian, who heads Zharangutyun’s parliamentary faction, said the issue will not be on the agenda of an unfolding dialogue between the HAK and the Armenian government. He argued that President Serzh Sarkisian and his political allies have given no indication that they are ready to call snap parliamentary or presidential elections.
“Since there have been no such assurances, I have no reason to conclude that this issue is on the agenda of the dialogue, no matter what the Armenian National Congress says,” Safarian told a news conference.
Senior members of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have repeatedly stated that Armenia’s parliament and president will complete their terms in office in 2012 and 2013 respectively. HAK representatives downplay these statements.
The HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, said on Thursday that his alliance is already engaged in an “open dialogue” with the Sarkisian administration. He said that was made possible by Sarkisian’s decision to essentially meet the alliance’s three main demands.
Those include the lifting of a de facto government ban on opposition rallies in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, a government promise to conduct a more objective inquiry into the March 2008 post-election violence and the release of all “political prisoners.”
Late last month Sarkisian ordered law-enforcement officials to conduct a “more meticulous” investigation into the unrest. He also hinted at the impending release of Ter-Petrosian loyalists remaining in prison.
Ter-Petrosian declared afterwards that all of them will be freed by Armenia’s independence holiday to be marked on May 28.
Armenia -- Minister of justice Hrayr Tovmasian at a press conference in Yerevan, 17Jan2011.
Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian declined to confirm this as he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday. Asked how justified the HAK leader’s optimism is, Tovmasian said, “I know but can’t tell you.”
“Wait until May 28 or until after May 28 and you will see what happens,” he added.
Tovmasian also made the point that a renewed unrest probe ordered by the president will take some time. “Do not expect everything to be done in one day,” he said.
Zaruhi Postanjian, another Zharangutyun parliamentarian, questioned the Armenian government’s stated commitment to punishing those responsible for the deaths of ten people on March 1-2, 2008. She said Sarkisian issued the order to senior law-enforcement officials who have sought to cover up those deaths.
“These individuals have for years diverted our state from the democratic path,” Postanjian told journalists. “They are symbols of injustice.”
Safarian agreed, saying that Zharangutyun does not take Sarkisian’s pledges seriously. “It is [the HAK’s] right to trust in those assurances as a serious guarantee, and it is our right not to trust in them,” he said.
Relations between the two opposition forces have deteriorated dramatically since Zharangutyun Chairman Raffi Hovannisian’s recent hunger strike in Liberty Square. Ter-Petrosian controversially shunned Hovannisian as he rallied thousands of supporters there on March 17.
Hovannisian afterwards accused Armenia’s first president of arrogance and intolerance and suggested that the HAK is ready to cut far-reaching deals with the Armenian government. Ter-Petrosian and his associates rejected the accusations.