President Serzh Sarkisian and his main election challenger, Raffi Hovannisian, met behind the closed doors on Thursday to discuss opposition demands for the annulment of the official vote results that gave victory to the incumbent.
The meeting requested by Hovannisian lasted for one and a half hours. Few of its details were immediately made public by either man.
Sarkisian agreed to receive Hovannisian after the opposition leader accompanied by hundreds of supporters marched from Liberty Square, the scene of his post-election rallies, to the presidential palace in Yerevan.
Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian meets official runner-up of in Armenia’s presidential election, Raffi Hovannisian, at the presidential palace, 21Feb2013
Short video of the unexpected encounter released by the presidential press office showed the two main election contenders smiling and greeting each other. “You look kind of sad,” Sarkisian said, shaking Hovannisian’s hand. “No, [I am] righteous,” countered the latter.
“It’s nice to see you, Mr. Sarkisian,” added the U.S.-born oppositionist clad in blue jeans and a black pullover.
The meeting proceeded behind the closed doors. A statement by Sarkisian’s office said it focused on “a broad range of issues relating to the presidential elections and the post-election period.” “Serzh Sarkisian and Raffi Hovannisian emphasized the priority of carrying out all processes within the framework of Armenia’s constitution and laws,” the statement added without elaborating.
Hovannisian, for his part, refused to divulge any details of the talks when he addressed the crowd standing outside the presidential compound 90 minutes later. He said he will publicize them at his next rally scheduled for Friday evening.
Armenia -- Supporters of Raffi Hovhannisyan rallied in front of the RA Presidential Residence while Raffi Hovhannisyan was having a meeting with Serzh Sargsyan, Yerevan, 21Feb2013
“The Armenian people will celebrate our victory in Liberty Square tomorrow at 5 pm,” Hovannisian declared. He urged the supporters to disperse, saying that he will be busy for the rest of the day holding “diplomatic meetings” with unspecified individuals.
Some in the crowd disagreed with his decision to interrupt the post-election protests, chanting “Now! Now!”
Hovannisian again declined to elaborate on the meeting when he made a brief appearance at the square later in the day. Addressing several hundred people standing there, he denounced instead a segment of the official footage which left the impression that he was against the presence of journalists or cameramen at the meeting. He said it was Sarkisian who insisted on holding it behind the closed doors.
The unexpected talks came after Sarkisian and his campaign team rejected Hovannisian’s demands to have the official results annulled and recognize him as the rightful winner of Monday’s presidential ballot.