Nikol Pashinian, a leading member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), claimed on Thursday that the authorities will agree to hold fresh presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of this year.
“Either pre-term elections will take place as a result of the [government-HAK] dialogue … or pre-term elections will take place under popular pressure,” Pashinian told journalists.
Pashinian, who is also the editor of the pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak,” reiterated HAK leaders’ warnings that the opposition bloc will pull out of its ongoing talks with President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling coalition if they yield no agreement on the issue by early September.
“If the possibility of achieving pre-term elections through dialogue is deemed exhausted, the HAK will have nothing to do in those negotiations. It will have something to do in Liberty Square instead,” he said.
Some senior HAK figures have threatened the authorities with a campaign of “civil disobedience.” Still, the bloc’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, spoke out against another standoff with the government in his speeches delivered earlier this year.
Coalition leaders have repeatedly rejected HAK demands for fresh elections. A senior member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) called them “nonsense” on Wednesday.
“Right now the authorities can’t cope with popular pressure,” insisted Pashinian. He said that is the main reason why they have made a series of concessions to the opposition in recent months.
The most important of those concessions was the release of the last Ter-Petrosian loyalists who were jailed in connection with the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan and remained behind bars. Pashinian was one of them.
The HAK plans to hold its next rally in Liberty Square next Tuesday. The bloc said on Wednesday that a group of its young activists was “attacked” by police officers while spreading leaflets about the rally overnight.
Such incidents have been reported ahead of just about every HAK rally held since 2008. The Armenian police have always denied harassing opposition youths and accused them of “hooliganism.”