The Armenian National Congress (HAK) may well fail to force President Serzh Sarkisian to resign soon and should therefore start preparing for regular parliamentary elections due in May next year, the opposition bloc’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, said on Friday.
“The Armenian National Congress will continue to do everything to hold pre-term elections, but since that doesn’t only depend on us we must be prepared for any development,” Ter-Petrosian told thousands of supporters demonstrating in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
“If, contrary to all our efforts, we do not manage after all to achieve Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation … then the Congress must seek to gain the kind of weighty presence in the National Assembly that would put it in a position to immediately raise, single-handedly or in an alliance with other forces, the issue of his impeachment,” he said.
Therefore, continued Ter-Petrosian, the HAK should now “seriously work” on ensuring the freedom and fairness of the parliamentary elections. He presented in that context a raft of draft amendments to Armenian electoral legislation which the bloc believes would complicate vote rigging.
The amendments call for a thorough revision of the country’s vote registers which the HAK and other opposition forces say are grossly inflated by the authorities to facilitate electoral fraud. They also envisage that all 131 seats in the parliament would be contested on the party list basis.
The conduct of early presidential and parliamentary elections was the HAK’s key stated demand until recently. Ter-Petrosian signaled last month his readiness to renounce that demand in return for other government concessions.
He went on to also offer the unconditional resumption of a dialogue with Armenia’s three-party ruling coalition. The HAK froze it in August in protest against the arrest of an opposition activist.
The Sarkisian administration did not respond to these overtures even during 8-day nonstop demonstrations held by the HAK in Liberty Square. Some HAK figures admit that the authorities did not bow to the pressure because attendance at those protests was not strong.
In his speech, Ter-Petrosian also acknowledged the need for greater popular support for the HAK drive to topple Sarkisian. “We will spend the coming months trying to turn this slogan into the conviction of all people,” he said, adding that the HAK will focus on strengthening its branches outside Yerevan for that purpose.