Opposition presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian condemned the United States and the European Union for recognizing President Serzh Sarkisian’s disputed reelection as he continued his post-election protests in Armenia’s southern regions on Tuesday.
Meeting supporters in Metsamor, a town adjacent to a nuclear power station, Hovannisian brushed aside congratulatory letters sent to Sarkisian by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday. He said they “can say whatever they want” but he will continue to consider himself the rightful winner of the February 18 election.
“I’m telling them, ‘I respect you but don’t you dare to breach the rights of Metsamor, Armavir province and the Republic of Armenia,” said the U.S.-born politician. “I won’t allow you to. And let nobody teach me lessons of American, Western or Russian democracy and law because the Armenian citizens are the masters of our country.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Sarkisian on winning a second term in a vote that drew guarded praise from Western observers. The United States and the EU based their largely positive reactions to the election conduct on the observers’ verdict.
Armenia - Opposition presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian meets supporters in Ashtarak, 23Feb2013.
Hovannisian suggested that the West and Russian may be legitimizing Sarkisian’s reelection in hopes of clinching more Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Earlier in the day, Hovannisian met with Vyacheslav Kovalenko, the Russian ambassador in Yerevan. In a statement, the opposition leader’s campaign headquarters said they discussed “the possibilities of overcoming the current political crisis in Armenia” and “exchanged viewpoints on Armenia-Russia relations.”
Hovannisian has repeatedly criticized the nature of those relations in his public statements, saying that they must be put on an equal footing.
The leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party began on Tuesday a two-day tour of the country’s southern and southeastern regions as part of a nationwide campaign of street protests aimed forcing a rerun of the presidential ballot. Sarkisian rejected this demand when he met with his main election challenger last week. The Armenian president also refused to call snap parliamentary elections, a compromise solution proposed by Hovannisian.
“I am ready to listen to all proposals from Serzh Sarkisian to resolve and overcome this national crisis,” Hovannisian told supporters in Masis, a small town 20 kilometers south of Yerevan. Appealing to Sarkisian, he added, “I’m not afraid of dialogue but you as well as America, Russia and Europe must recognize … the victory of the Armenian people.”