Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian and deputies from three leading opposition groups will not attend President Serzh Sarkisian’s inauguration for a second term in office, it was confirmed on Monday.
Sarkisian will take the oath of office on Tuesday at a special session of the Armenian parliament that will also be attended by hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries.
A spokeswoman for Tsarukian, Ivetta Tonoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the BHK leader will not be present at the ceremony because of being absent from the country. She said he went abroad over the weekend.
It was not clear if other members of the BHK’s 36-strong parliamentary faction, the second largest in the National Assembly, will be in attendance. “You’ll see tomorrow,” one of them, Vartan Oskanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) when asked about his participation.
The BHK left Armenia’s governing coalition in June last year amid growing disagreements with President Sarkisian and his Republican Party (HHK). It reacted ambiguously to the official results of the February 18 presidential election, justifying post-election rallies held by the main opposition candidate, Raffi Hovannisian, but not openly challenging the legitimacy of Sarkisian’s disputed reelection.
Sarkisian’s inauguration will be attended instead by former President Robert Kocharian, who is regarded by some commentators as Tsarukian’s political patron. Kocharian, who handed over power to Sarkisian in 2008, has repeatedly criticized the current Armenian government’s track record in the last few years.
Kocharian’s participation at his successor’s second inauguration was confirmed by his press secretary, Victor Soghomonian.
Predictably, the inauguration will be boycotted by the three opposition forces represented in the parliament: Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Neither Hovannisian nor the HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, has been invited to the ceremony. None of them hold a parliament seat.
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian, who managed Sarkisian’ s reelection campaign, said on Monday that Hovannisian did not receive an invitation because “Raffi considers himself the elected president.” Abrahamian could not say why no such invitation was extended to Ter-Petrosian.
The HAK leader, who was Sarkisian’s main challenger in the 2008 presidential election, has accused the authorities of rigging both ballots. He too has claimed that Hovannisian is rightful winner of the latest presidential contest.
Meanwhile, Dashnaktsutyun said on Monday that its 5-member parliamentary faction will boycott Sarkisian’s inauguration in protest against what it called the authorities’ unwillingness to implement “radical and in-depth reforms” demanded by the public. In a statement, the opposition party said it will demonstrate a “corresponding attitude” if the authorities embark on such reforms.