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Ruling Party Leader Criticizes Police ‘Leniency’ Toward Opposition


Armenia - Riot police block a street in Yerevan leading to the presidential residence, 9Apr2013.

Armenia - Riot police block a street in Yerevan leading to the presidential residence, 9Apr2013.

Riot police should have acted more forcefully against thousands of opposition supporters that demonstrated against President Serzh Sarkisian’s second inauguration, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Wednesday.

Galust Sahakian also stated that opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian exhausted all possibilities of a compromise deal with the government with his attempt to stage a march towards the presidential palace on Tuesday. “There is no room for cooperation,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Sahakian, who also leads the HHK’s parliamentary faction, said that the Armenian police should have dispersed, rather than merely stopped, the crowd that attempted to march to the building. Police units should take tougher action against such unsanctioned protests in the future, he said.

“The police must make full use of their powers because law needs to be enforced,” added the HHK leader.

Senior representatives of Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, condemned the police actions as illegal, however. One of them, Zaruhi Postanjian, said Zharangutyun will be seeking punishment for law-enforcement officials involved in the crackdown.

The use of force was likewise described as “disproportionate” by Elinar Vartanian, the chairwoman of the Armenian parliament committee on human rights and a member of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). “The society seems to be split into two parts,” she said, expressing concern over post-election developments in the country.

By contrast, the police actions drew praise from Artsvik Minasian, a deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), another opposition party that has backed Hovannisian’s post-election movement but avoided any involvement in Tuesday’s protests. “Unlike in the past, the police acted in a more organized and lawful manner this time around. I consider that a positive development,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Minasian also criticized Hovannisian for trying to hold a rally outside the presidential building. “Although we have managed to establish cooperation with Zharangutyun, the truth is more important. There is no need to drive the society into such extreme actions anymore,” he said.

But Stepan Safarian, Zharangutyun’s secretary general, faulted Dashnaktsutyun and other major opposition forces for not joining Tuesday’s protests. He said their “passive” stance was a “tragedy” for Hovannisian and the entire nation. “It’s not Raffi Hovannisian who committed [political] suicide. Suicide is being committed by those who are following a different path,” he said.

Safarian also announced that the violent incident is forcing Zharangutyun to revise its political strategy and demands addressed to the authorities. “There will definitely be a revision of our agenda,” he said without elaborating.

Hovannisian is due to again rally supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Friday.
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