Armenia’s main opposition bloc appears determined to extend its nonstop anti-government demonstrations beyond the originally set limit of one week as the ruling coalition has remained reluctant to resume formal talks amid continuing protests.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK) led by ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian presented eight demands to the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian, including the holding of snap presidential and parliamentary elections until the end of the year and major changes in the electoral law. Before announcing a weeklong round-the-clock protest last Friday, Ter-Petrosian also implied that his opposition movement was ready to stop demanding fresh elections in return for other government concessions. He gave the authorities a week to agree to what Ter-Petrosian had earlier described as ‘a reasonable compromise’ or face continued demonstrations.
Now the HAK has indicated that a majority of protesters encamped in Yerevan’s Liberty Square already for a week feel like continuing the round-the-clock protest even after Saturday, which is set as the day of “taking important decisions.”
“All regional chapters, all political parties [of the alliance] have been discussing our future plans, forms and methods [of struggle],” Aram Manukian, one of the HAK leaders, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday. “We have a very democratic environment. Everyone’s opinion is discussed and is brought to the HAK’s political council. And based on that, the political council will make a decision.”
Still, Manukian said that while the majority of protesters are for continued sitting strikes, in taking the final decision the opposition bloc will “consider all opinions.”
Meanwhile, leaders of the HAK’s local chapters in provinces called a press conference in Liberty Square, again claiming that police raise obstacles to the work of public transportation and that even citizens who own cars cannot reach the capital. They also claimed that police in the provinces have started exerting pressure on HAK activists.
However, in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) head of the Police’s Public Relations and Information Department Ashot Aharonian rejected the opposition claims, insisting that they are not true to fact.
From the very beginning of the opposition protests in Yerevan late last week police have repeatedly warned the protesters that they were encamped in the public square unlawfully and urged them to discontinue their sit-in.
Similar mass demonstrations in the wake of the February 2008 presidential election resulted in deadly riots in Yerevan when police clashed with opposition supporters who said the election was rigged. Ten people were killed and hundreds received injuries during the 2008 violence that brought in its wake the arrests of more than a hundred opposition members.