A leading member of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) said Wednesday that the opposition alliance should capitalize on what he called a seasonal rise in popular disaffection with the government and again try to unseat President Serzh Sarkisian this winter.
Aram Sarkisian, whose Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party is a major member of the HAK, said he believes the bloc should launch a fresh campaign of anti-government protests before parliamentary elections due in May. “In my view February is the most convenient time to launch that process,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
Sarkisian claimed that HAK rallies in February would be joined by tens of thousands of Armenians who traditionally return home in November and December after seasonal work in Russia. “Imagine if 30,000 or 40,000 of them participate in our rallies,” he said. “That holds a potential for the HAK.”
Sarkisian added that many other people would also take part in anti-government rallies because of spending much of their savings on New Year’s celebrations and struggling to get by in the following weeks. “I will propose this as an option to the Congress,” he said of his plan of actions.
The HAK already staged a series of daily demonstrations in Yerevan’s Liberty Square as recently as last month. Only several thousand people attended them. The bloc ended the weeklong campaign without clinching further government concessions.
The HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, acknowledged on October 28 that Armenia’s largest opposition force may well fail to force President Sarkisian to resign soon. He said it should therefore start preparing for the May parliamentary elections. The HAK will specifically seek to ensure their freedom and fairness, added Ter-Petrosian.
By contrast, Aram Sarkisian insisted that the HAK should “defeat the government before the elections” by forcing the ruling Republican Party (HHK) to withdraw from the race. The polls cannot be democratic if they are contested by the HHK, he claimed.
The outspoken oppositionist, who served as prime minister in 1999-2000, noted that “other options” are also being suggested to the HAK leadership. “The Congress is holding discussions on its next steps at the moment,” he said without elaborating.