Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian called for President Serzh Sarkisian’s immediate resignation on Wednesday, saying that he has brought Armenia into disrepute and is leading it to ruin with his “adventurist” foreign policy.
In a written statement posted on ilur.am, Ter-Petrosian declared that Sarkisian must be granted legal immunity from prosecution and any asset confiscation if he agrees to step down.
“Armenia needs radical systemic reforms,” said the leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). “Expecting Serzh Sarkisian to be able to implement those reforms is tantamount to political blindness. Only ‘idealist’ European bureaucrats could afford the ‘naivety’ of trying to turn that individual into a reformer.”
“Every day of his rule is a loss for Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) in the demographic, economic, material, political and moral-psychological senses,” continued Ter-Petrosian.
Armenia, he said, needs a new president “capable of restoring the country’s international reputation as a trustworthy and responsible partner.” Sarkisian has destroyed that reputation with his “adventurist political wanderings” between the West and Russia that could have “disastrous consequences” for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, he claimed.
Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, clearly referred to Sarkisian’s unexpected decision last month to join a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states at the expense of a much closer relationship with the European Union. He said earlier that Sarkisian thus duped the EU and humiliated Armenia. Still, unlike other opposition leaders, Ter-Petrosian stopped short of opposing Armenian membership of the Russian-dominated bloc.
The HAK leader also stated on Wednesday that he would not run for president in the event of Sarkisian’s resignation. He said Robert Kocharian, another ex-president who handed over power to the current head of state in 2008, must also not seek to return to power.
Ter-Petrosian was the main opposition candidate in the disputed Armenian presidential election of February 2008. The outgoing Kocharian administration used lethal force to suppress his post-election street protests against alleged vote rigging.
Ter-Petrosian has since been reluctant to launch a new campaign of non-stop anti-government protests. He did not clarify on Wednesday what he and his party will do if Sarkisian refuses to quit.
Predictably, Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) brushed aside Ter-Petrosian’s demand. HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov referred to the ex-president as a “political pensioner” and “failed politician.”
Sharmazanov claimed that Ter-Petrosian has no moral right to speak of threats to Armenian control over Karabakh because he had been ready to place the disputed territory back under Azerbaijan rule while in office. “Sometimes it’s better to keep silent than speak up,” the deputy parliament speaker told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Sharmazanov also scoffed at Ter-Petrosian’s remark that Sarkisian will not face a “political vendetta” if he chooses to resign. “Serzh Sarkisian is a president elected by Armenia’s citizens,” he said. “Serzh Sarkisian has a popular mandate and is pursuing a policy ordered by the majority of citizens.”