President Serzh Sarkisian has insisted that he is not worried about opposition threats to launch this fall a new campaign of street protests aimed at toppling him.
Speaking with a group of young journalists on Saturday, Sarkisian said that Armenia’s established opposition forces as well as the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) can come to power only through regular elections.
“Let them hold rallies, if they want,” he said. “But that must happen within the bounds of the law. I don’t think that they are in favor of illegal actions. They too want to make our country a better place. It’s just that their ideas are different from ours.”
The BHK and three other parliamentary parties challenging the Sarkisian administration plan to hold a joint rally in late September to discuss the Armenian authorities’ response to their list of mostly socioeconomic demands set in June. Two of those parties, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun (Heritage), hope that it will mark the beginning of a concerted opposition push for “regime change.” The BHK, which is led by millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian, has favored a more cautious line until now.
Sarkisian downplayed HAK leaders’ promises of a “heated political autumn” in Armenia, saying that this and other opposition groups have long tried to galvanize their supporters with such statements. “Can you name a year which did not see them say that the autumn will be heated?” he said.
Levon Zurabian, a senior HAK figure, scoffed at the president’s remarks on Monday. “When it comes to making rallies a success, the authorities have always been our ally,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Because with their actions, their failings and corruption they have always ensured that there are many disgruntled people in Armenia ready to take on these authorities.”
“We will do what we have promised,” he said. The people must not put up with the existence of Serzh Sarkisian’s regime.”
The HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, claimed last month that Sarkisian’s downfall will become inevitable if he presses ahead with a controversial constitutional reform which the Armenian opposition suspects is aimed at prolonging his rule.
Sarkisian said on Saturday that he remains committed to amending the Armenian constitution in a way that would curtail sweeping powers vested in the presidency. He said he plans to sign in October a final “concept” of the reform which is currently developed by an ad hoc commission formed by him. But Sarkisian also noted that he and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will move to set a date for a referendum on constitutional amendments only “if we reach an agreement.” He did not elaborate.