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Senior Opposition Member Backs Dialogue With Sarkisian


Armenia - Ruben Hakobian, deputy chairman of the opposition Heritage party, at the Central Election Commission in Yerevan, 22Mar2012.

Armenia - Ruben Hakobian, deputy chairman of the opposition Heritage party, at the Central Election Commission in Yerevan, 22Mar2012.

A senior representative of an Armenian opposition party whose leader is protesting the results of last month’s presidential election has spoken in favor of a dialogue with President Serzh Sargsyan, the disputed winner of the polls, but only on condition that it leads to ‘adequate’ rather than ‘cosmetic’ solutions.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday Ruben Hakobyan, the deputy chairman of the Heritage Party of Raffi Hovannisian, Sargsyan’s top challenger, acknowledged that the offer of a dialogue could be accepted on that condition.

In his written reply to Hovannisian on Monday President Sarkisian said he agreed, in principle, to engage in discussions with the opposition based on its leader’s proposals to end the post-election standoff, but he urged Hovannisian to discontinue his hunger strike first.

At a Friday rally attended by thousands of his supporters Hovannisian demanded a number of major government concessions in what he described as his ultimate compromise proposal to Sarkisian. In particular, he offered to recognize the incumbent’s continued ‘de-facto’ presidency in exchange for a promise of snap parliamentary elections to be held by the end of this year, as well as sweeping electoral reforms and several key government positions to be held by people named by him.

In his reply Sarkisian described the proposals as being “far from the ideas of a proper formation of state authorities” and directly contradicting the “constitutional regulations”, but still acknowledged them as a possible basis for launching an “effective dialogue”.

“There is a platform for conducting a dialogue, and I think this offer should naturally be accepted, but on condition that it produces solutions that would not be cosmetic, but would be adequate to today’s situation,” said Hakobian, who heads Heritage’s faction in the National Assembly.

“It is more desirable and more logical that the current tension be defused by way of dialogue, but it should satisfy not only us, Raffi Hovannisian, but also the people. After all, let’s be frank, what Raffi Hovannisian read out [at the Friday rally] was more of the proposals of the people in the square,” he added.

Hovannisian himself has not yet commented on the president’s reply, promising to address the matter at another open-air press conference in Liberty Square, where he is holding his protest, on Wednesday. Before that, he said, he would address another letter to Sarkisian on Tuesday.

Sarkisian and Hovannisian already were in talks early on during the current post-election crisis. The two political leaders met at the presidential compound on February 21 and Hovannisian then, too, urged Sarkisian to call fresh legislative polls. The president, however, rejected the idea and, for his part, offered to appoint Hovannisian as head of a special state commission that would be tasked with drafting sweeping amendments to the Armenian Constitution, a proposal later dismissed by Hovannisian and his party.

At least one newspaper in Yerevan, citing its own sources, reported on Tuesday that Sarkisian was inclined to meet some of Hovannisian’s latest demands. The Hraparak daily, in particular, suggested that the matter could concern several ministerial posts in the new government in the fields of sport, youth affairs, social welfare and culture. The unverified report also said that the sides could discuss “mutually acceptable options and candidates” for ministerial positions in the spheres of law-enforcement and tax administration.

Hovannisian had demanded that Sarkisian appoint individuals handpicked by the opposition leader to run a number of key state institutions, including the ministries of justice, foreign affairs and education, the government’s tax collection agency, the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the National Security Service, as well as regional administrations in five provinces of Armenia.
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