The Armenian government officially responded to a list of opposition demands on Wednesday ahead of an unprecedented joint rally planned by the country’s leading parties challenging President Serzh Sarkisian.
The government claimed to have fully or partly met some of the 12 demands that were issued by the Prosperous Armenia (BHK), Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun parties as well as the Armenian National Congress (HAK) in June. It cautiously rejected the other ones, saying that their fulfillment is not feasible or requires more time.
The four parliamentary parties demanded, among other things, that President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration explicitly halt a controversial pension reform, cut taxes for small businesses, sharply increase subsidies to farmers, keep public transport fares unchanged and break up de facto economic monopolies. They also sought amendments to the Electoral Code mandating the conduct of parliamentary elections only on a party-list basis and introducing what the opposition regards as a crucial safeguard against vote rigging.
The opposition quartet gave the authorities until September 30 to address these issues or face the possibility of anti-government street protests. Three of those parties -- the BHK, the HAK and Zharangutyun -- will hold a joint demonstration in Yerevan on October 10. They began last week a series of smaller regional gatherings in preparation for that protest. HAK leaders spoke of an anti-government “velvet revolution” unfolding in Armenia.
In an extensive statement, the government commented on each of the 12 demands issued by the opposition. In particular, it pointed to major changes in a highly controversial pension reform fiercely resisted by the opposition, argued that fines for the violation of traffic rules were reduced recently and pledged to gradually increase assistance to farmers.
The government made clear at the same time that it cannot guarantee that public transportation and electricity prices in Armenia, another issue on the opposition agenda, will not rise further. It also declined to promise that all 131 seats in the Armenian parliament will be contested under the proportional representation system in the next elections. It suggested that the opposition parties make corresponding proposals to a presidential commission working on a constitutional reform planned by Sarkisian.
The opposition parties except Dashnaktsutyun have rejected the planned constitutional amendments out of hand, saying that they are aimed at helping Sarkisian hold on to power. They did not immediately respond to the government statement.