Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday distanced himself from negotiations held by representatives of his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party and the pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament in an attempt to defuse post-election tensions in the country.
Senior lawmakers from President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Zharangutyun and another opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), met on Thursday to discuss the agenda of a possible parliament session on last week’s disputed presidential election. They reached no agreements but pledged to continue the discussions.
Hovannisian insisted that he has nothing to do with those talks. He also seemed to suggest that they have already broken down.
“The people who rigged elections do not even want to propose a solution,” the main opposition presidential candidate told reporters at an improvised news conference held in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, the main venue for his post-election demonstrations.
Nevertheless, the talks reportedly continued in the parliament on Friday. Hovannisian’s remarks disavowing them were described as “ludicrous” by Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader involved in the discussions, similarly called the Zharangutyun leader’s stance “strange.” “A parliamentary faction cannot fail to represent its party,” he said of Zharangutyun. “The two cannot act independently from each other.”
Ruben Hakobian, one of the three Zharangutyun deputies, defended Hovannisian. “If we manage to find correct solutions in this parliament that can foster negotiations between Raffi Hovannisian and Serzh Sarkisian later on,” he told journalists.
During Thursday’s meeting the Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun deputies proposed a 3-point agenda for the parliament session on the February 18 vote that includes the holding of fresh parliamentary elections only under the system of proportional representation. The HHK rejected the idea of snap polls. It is not yet clear what the ruling party’s counterproposals are.
Earlier this month, parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian, who managed President Sarkisian’s election campaign, said the Armenian government is open to “reasonable proposals” from Hovannisian. He indicated that it is ready to appoint Zharangutyun members to senior government positions.
“Hovik Abrahamian is not my interlocutor,” Hovannisian said on Friday. “My sole interlocutor is Mr. Sarkisian. If he has something to say I’ll listen.”
Zaruhi Postanjian, another Zharangutyun deputy, categorically rejected the idea of a power-sharing deal. She said that that the authorities are thereby seeking to turn Hovannisian’s party into an “accomplice in vote rigging.”