Three leading Armenian parties critical of President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday decided to hold a joint rally on October 10 which might mark the beginning of their campaign of anti-government street protests.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), another opposition party represented in parliament, announced, meanwhile, that it will not participate in the rally because it disagrees with the troika’s unconditional rejection of sweeping constitutional amendments planned by Sarkisian.
The announcements came after a two-hour meeting of senior lawmakers from the four parties that have increasingly worked together in challenging the Armenian government over the past year. Their cooperation culminated in a list of 12 political and economic demands that were issued to the Sarkisian administration in June. The opposition quartet said at the time that it will rally supporters this fall to discuss the authorities’ response to those demands. The date of that rally was not known until now.
“Our distinguished colleagues from Dashnaktsutyun will not take part in the joint rally on the grounds that there are substantial differences on a very serious issue like the constitutional changes,” said Naira Zohrabian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).
“Let’s be frank. It’s hard to expect the rally not to discuss and take a position on a critical issue like the constitutional changes. That is why Dashnaktsutyun will not join the rally of the three political forces to be held on October 10,” Zohrabian told reporters.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, reaffirmed his party’s readiness to endorse Sarkisian’s constitutional reform if the authorities accept its concrete proposals to be submitted after October 15. Dashnaktsutyun will join the other parliamentary minority forces in campaigning against the reform if those proposals are turned down, he said.
According to Rustamian, Dashnaktsutyun therefore proposed that the opposition rally be postponed until after the authorities’ response. “But they want to hold it as early as possible,” he said of the trio.
It remains unclear what the BHK, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party will do after the rally. The HAK and Zharangutyun are pushing for a sustained campaign of street protests which they hope would force Sarkisian to step down or at least leave power after completing his final presidential term in 2018. The BHK, which controls the second largest faction in Armenia’s parliament, has been more cautious so far.