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Armenian Ruling Party Again Spurns ‘Opposition Ultimatum’


Armenia -- Deputy head of the Republican Party of Armenia Galust Sahakian, undated

Armenia -- Deputy head of the Republican Party of Armenia Galust Sahakian, undated

A senior member of Armenia’s ruling party has downplayed the latest opposition threat to resume its push for an immediate power change unless the government agreed to formal negotiations around holding early elections.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Galust Sahakian, a deputy head of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), put the radical rhetoric of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) down to its desperate need to keep the electorate. He claimed the opposition ranks have been getting thinner lately.

Supporters of the HAK, an opposition alliance of about two dozen political parties and organizations led by ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian, rallied in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Thursday, vowing to push President Sarkisian out of office unless he called pre-term elections.

Speaking at the rally Ter-Petrosian gave Sarkisian until early September to start formal negotiations with his alliance and “finally make up his mind on the issue of fresh elections.” He warned that failure to do so would prompt the HAK to demand Sarkisian’s immediate resignation.

Sarkisian’s administration had already fulfilled some opposition demands, including allowing rallies in a previously forbidden area, the release of activists jailed in the wake of deadly clashes after disputed presidential elections in 2008 and a pledge to renew the probe into those events. The moves by the government raised optimism about an emerging political dialogue in the country, which, however, has stalled amid what seems to be different perceptions of the process.

“We are ready to dialogue, while they want to negotiate. It is unacceptable to us,” stressed Sahakian in this regard.

Earlier, the HHK through its representative had already rejected the new deadline set by the opposition. HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov last week insisted that while being open to “constructive” proposals from the HAK, the Armenian authorities had no intention to bring forward the next parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Earlier, speaking of the possibility of holding snap elections in Armenia at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, on June 22, President Sarkisian also effectively rejected this idea, stressing that early elections weren’t a necessity, nor would be easy to organize given some provisions of the Armenian Constitution that make the holding of preterm legislative polls conditional on a number of circumstances.

At a press conference on Tuesday constitutional law expert Vartan Poghosian said that the country’s Basic Law does enable the president to dissolve the parliament and hold early legislative elections, but he called into question the readiness of the authorities to take such a step.

“Of course, it is possible to create such artificial situations, but it is not clear to me why the authorities should resort to that step,” said Poghosian, adding that the opposition’s continued demands of early elections may lead to an ‘impasse’.

Instead, Poghosian advised that the opposition use the period until next May, when the next parliamentary vote is due to take place, for “making political arrangements around mechanisms of holding free and fair relations rather than about their terms.”
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