The Armenian National Congress (HAK) still hopes to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Armenia’s government, Stepan Demirchian, a leading member of the opposition alliance, said on Tuesday.
“We don’t consider this process to be completely failed,” he told journalists. “The authorities still have time to draw conclusions.”
President Serzh Sarkisian paved the way for such a dialogue last month with a serious concessions to the HAK, including the release of all opposition members remaining in prison. However, the two sides have still not held any face-to-face meetings on ways of easing political tensions in Armenia.
The HAK insists that the dialogue should take the form of officials negotiations between special delegations formed by the Sarkisian administration and the country’s largest opposition force. The president and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) categorically rejected this format until recently.
But in a June 17 statement, Sarkisian signaled greater flexibility on the issue, saying that the two rival sides could discuss pressing issues facing Armenia “through specially designated individuals.” He said representatives of the HHK and two other parties represented in the Armenian government could “sit down at the negotiation table” with an HAK delegation.
The HAK and its top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, are expected to respond to that statement at their next rally in Yerevan scheduled for Thursday.
Vartan Bostanjian, a parliament deputy from one of those parties, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), insisted on Tuesday that the governing coalition has not yet discussed the dialogue with the HAK
“When that issue is considered within the coalition framework, when Prosperous Armenia is told to speak out … we will start a dialogue,” Bostanjian told a news conference. “But at this point nothing related to that exists.”
“My understanding is that not all parties have a clear idea on the overall content of the dialogue,” he said.
Bostanjian stressed at the same time that the dialogue primarily concerns the presidential HHK and Ter-Petrosian’s alliance. He denied media reports that the BHK is monitoring the process with unease.
Another stumbling block is HAK demands for the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections. Sarkisian and his coalition have repeatedly rejected them.
Demirchian, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2003, acknowledged that the authorities are unlikely to willingly call fresh elections. “I think the authorities would take steps only under public pressure,” he said. “Fresh elections must be imposed by the society, by all of us.”
Demirchian also warned: “When I say that there is still time [for the dialogue] that doesn’t mean that we will wait endlessly. Everything has a limit, a time frame.”