More than ten days after their last rally in Yerevan the three opposition parties engaged in an ongoing anti-government campaign have not yet announced the date of their next gathering, prompting speculation about possible rifts inside their informal coalition.
Stepan Markarian, a lawmaker representing the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the largest of the three groups making up the so-called ‘trio’, confirmed to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday that the leaders of the movement have not yet decided on when to hold their next rally.
Another BHK member, Mikayel Melkumian, meanwhile, suggested that not disclosing the date of the next rally now may be a “tactical step”.
“This is something that the leaders of the trio are to decide,” he said. “It is possible that they do not speak publicly about it for tactical reasons.”
Earlier, Melkumian confirmed that the issue would be discussed at an ‘upcoming’ meeting of the three leaders – Gagik Tsarukian of the BHK, and Levon Ter-Petrosian and Raffi Hovannisian, of the Armenian National Congress and Heritage, respectively. He did not specify when exactly such a meeting is planned.
The opposition coalition had in advance notified the Yerevan municipality of the possibility of using Liberty Square, the main venue for political assembly in the city, for rallies on all Fridays in November.
Meanwhile, the lack of announcement on the next rally date has also been interpreted by some observers as a sign of possible differences among the three parties. The speculation was stoked by media reports alleging that a meeting was held between Tsarukian and President Serzh Sarkisian over the weekend. The BHK and Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) did not confirm such a meeting, however.
Meanwhile, some HHK representatives also suggested that the delay in the trio’s action was due to the lack of a ‘cohesive message’ to their supporters and the government.
Replying to critics, the BHK’s Melkumian said that at present they are engaged in solving ‘organizational matters’, which also includes the formation of offices in the provinces. He said they will return to the political agenda after the competition of the process.
HHK lawmaker Hovhannes Sahakian, meanwhile, said he hoped that the opposition would engage in “constructive” dialogue and thus avoid disappointing its supporters again.
Parliament Speaker Galust Sahakian, who is a deputy chairman of the HHK, also stressed that the ruling party was open to dialogue as he spoke to reporters on Tuesday. He, however, ruled out an immediate reform of the electoral code, which is one of the major demands of the opposition.
“We are ready to change the electoral code in due time,” Sahakian said. “But at this moment we have to deal with changing the model of government… It is absurd to make changes in the electoral code before a constitutional reform as these changes should proceed from the amendments to the Constitution.”
The three opposition parties are critical of the constitutional reform initiated by the current administration. They fear that the plans to turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic are tailored to the needs of President Sarkisian who thus wants to stay in power in some capacity after the end of his second and final term in office in 2018. Sarkisian himself has pledged not to seek a top government post in the future if the current semi-presidential model is changed as a result of the reform.