The Armenian military will not step in to help the government quell possible opposition protests threatening President Serzh Sarkisian’s hold on power, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Tuesday.
“The army has not intervened in internal political developments [in the past,]” he told reporters. “The army could take appropriate measures only in case of an appropriate decision and only with the aim of protecting the country’s most important facilities.”
Ohanian was asked to comment on the issue in the context of a stern warning that was issued by the Armenian police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, over the weekend to the country’s four leading opposition parties planning to hold a joint anti-government rally. Speaking during a police exercise in crowd control, Gasparian said security forces would not hesitate to “strictly” respond to any actions that are deemed unconstitutional by the Armenian authorities.
In that regard, Gasparian cited the need to prevent a repeat of the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan which left ten people dead and more than 100 others wounded. Then President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered the army into the city center to end protests by supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian demanding the rerun of a disputed presidential election. Ohanian was the chief of the army’s General Staff at the time.