Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian urged Armenia’s main opposition forces on Tuesday to close ranks ahead of the weekend elections in Yerevan, saying that the mayoral race is an opportunity to bring about President Serzh Sarkisian’s downfall.
Speaking at the first major rally held by his Armenian National Congress (HAK) in almost a year, Ter-Petrosian claimed that “the regime’s fate” hinges on the outcome of the May 5 vote.
“Given the utmost importance of the Yerevan council elections for the future of the country, I find it necessary to make a last friendly appeal to all opposition political forces and civic organizations,” he told thousands of supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. “Put aside existing disagreements and mutual rebukes and, by becoming a single fist, fight a decisive battle against the criminal regime on May 5 in order to clinch the capital from its claws and precipitate the restoration of constitutional order in Armenia.”
Ter-Petrosian said the presently fragmented opposition will commit a “crime” if it fails to seize upon what he called widespread public disaffection with the government that was exposed by the February 18 presidential election. He said the HAK and other opposition forces should work together in trying to at least prevent the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) from winning 40 percent of the vote necessary for re-installing Taron Markarian as Yerevan mayor.
Echoing statements by other senior HAK figures, Ter-Petrosian said the opposition should also be prepared for cutting a power-sharing deal in Yerevan in case of the HHK’s failure to retain its majority in the municipal Council of Elders.
Representatives of the other opposition forces say they support the idea in principle. Like the HAK, they have also called for joint opposition efforts to prevent possible vote rigging. But they seem to have taken few practical steps in that direction so far.
Concerted opposition efforts are hampered by mutual antagonism and distrust existing between some of the groups opposed to President Sarkisian. In particular, Ter-Petrosian’s HAK has a strained relationship with the Zharangutyun party of Raffi Hovannisian, the main opposition candidate in the last presidential ballot.
In his speech, Ter-Petrosian reiterated the HAK’s pledge not to criticize Zharangutyun or any other opposition groups and even avoid responding to verbal attacks from them during the election campaign.
Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, also reaffirmed his party’s rejection of the official results of the February 18 election that gave victory to Sarkisian. The HAK leader claimed that the incumbent scored a “Pyrrhic victory over his own people” and is now weaker than during his first term despite continuing to enjoy strong Western support.