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Armenian Government ‘Untroubled’ By Post-Election Protests


Armenia - Pro-opposition university students demonstrate outside the Central Election Commission in Yerevan as it approves the final results of the February 18 presidential election, 25Feb2013.

Armenia - Pro-opposition university students demonstrate outside the Central Election Commission in Yerevan as it approves the final results of the February 18 presidential election, 25Feb2013.

The Armenian government is not worried about continuing opposition demonstrations against the official results of the February 18 election and has no plans to break up them, the ruling Republican Party (HHK) said on Tuesday.

“In this sense, we have no concerns,” Galust Sahakian, an HHK deputy chairman, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He claimed that the government is interested in the existence of a strong opposition.

“There was a drought in the political field and the success of the elections is also conditioned by the fact that a new opposition is taking shape in a vacant field. I think that is good for the state,” Sahakian said, referring to Raffi Hovannisian, the main opposition presidential candidate, and his allies.

“I think there is nothing worrisome going on in our country,” agreed Hovannes Sahakian (no relation), another senior HHK lawmaker. “We held a transparent election and I don’t see any problems here.”

Hovannes Sahakian predicted that Hovannisian’s nationwide protests will fizzle out very soon. There are already signs of waning public interest in the opposition campaign, he said.

President Serzh Sarkisian likewise faced opposition protests after being first elected president in equally disputed circumstances five years ago. The Armenian authorities used force to break up those protests on March 1-2, 2008. Ten people were killed and more than 100 others injured as a result.

The Armenian National Congress (HAK) of Levon Ter-Petrosian, Sarkisian’s main challenger in 2008, was scheduled to mark the fifth anniversary of the violence on Friday with a rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. The HAK cancelled the rally on Tuesday on the grounds that Hovannisian also plans to rally supporters there on the same day.

In a statement, the HAK urged supporters to only gather at the site of the 2008 deadly clashes between opposition protesters and security forces elsewhere in the city center and pay their respects to the unrest victims. It stopped short of asking them to join Hovannisian’s planned rally.

Official HAK representatives declined to comment further on this decision. But one prominent member of the opposition bloc, Gurgen Yeghiazarian, made no secret of his dislike of Hovannisian. “We must never form an alliance with Raffi Hovannisian,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “That would be a mistake.”

Ter-Petrosian has declared Hovannisian the rightful winner of the February 18 election but has refrained from joining his post-election campaign so far.
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