Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian set conditions on Tuesday for his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party’s participation in a multi-party structure meant to combat possible fraud in next month’s parliamentary elections.
Zharangutyun, Armenia’s two other leading opposition forces as well as the governing Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) announced the establishment of the Inter-Party Center for Public Oversight of the Elections in a joint statement signed by their senior members on April 4. They have yet to work out practical modalities of the unprecedented joint effort.
Hovannisian said Zharangutyun believes that the task force can operate successfully only if the four election contenders clarify what they mean by free and fair elections. He also demanded the adoption of another joint declaration that would be signed by their top leaders.
“Our proposals and conditions should be respected in the next two days so that we can have a really functioning and effective joint center,” he told a public discussion at the Civilitas Foundation, a Yerevan-based think-tank. “We are not going to waste time.”
Representatives of the four political forces are expected to meet on Wednesday to try to flesh out the initiative.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was also offered to join the anti-fraud task force but rejected the offer. HHK representatives proposed last week alternative formats for multi-party cooperation on the proper conduct of the May 6 elections. The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) rejected them out of hand, questioning the Sarkisian government’s stated commitment to democratic elections.
HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, meanwhile, urged Armenians not to sell their votes and bow to intimidation by government loyalists as he launched his bloc’s election campaign in the central Aragatsotn province. He at the same time dismissed suggestions that massive vote buying by the HHK would be enough to earn President Serzh Sarkisian’s party victory in the elections. The authorities are thus trying to demoralize disgruntled voters, he claimed.
Speaking at a campaign rally in the town of Aparan, Ter-Petrosian also assured supporters that the Armenian authorities would not get away with fresh “repression” against his opposition movement.
“Today the international environment has changed,” Armenia’s first president said. “The world would no longer put up with the kind of abuses that were committed in Armenia. The events in Arab countries … have taught the world a lesson and I’m sure the world will be looking at our elections with totally different eyes.”
“That is a further guarantee that the authorities will not dare to unleash the kind of repression against the people which they perpetrated in the past,” he added. “So we shouldn’t be afraid of anything.”