The Armenian National Congress (HAK) of Levon Ter-Petrosian has warned Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) against taking a cautious line in their joint anti-government campaign, exposing potentially serious differences between the two leading opposition forces.
In a weekend statement, the HAK questioned the BHK leadership’s apparent reluctance to stage more anti-government rallies in the coming weeks. It said Tsarukian’s party will risk making a “fateful mistake” if it chooses to indefinitely postpone such protests.
The BHK, which currently has a larger following than the HAK or any other opposition group, effectively dismissed the warning on Monday with a statement issued by its spokesman, Tigran Urikhanian. The latter said that Ter-Petrosian’s party is free to “hold any public gathering on its own at any location and at any time.”
The two parties traded the thinly veiled barbs amid uncertainty about the future of their joint drive to achieve “regime change” in the country. They as well as the opposition Zharangutyun party held two major rallies in Yerevan last month, fuelling expectations of nonstop street protests aimed at forcing President Serzh Sarkisian to resign.
Tsarukian spoke out against such protests at the most recent demonstration organized by the opposition trio on October 24. Unlike Ter-Petrosian and Zharangutyun’s Raffi Hovannisian, he stopped short of calling for Sarkisian’s immediate ouster. He demanded instead that the Armenian authorities ensure that the next parliamentary elections are held only on a party-list basis.
This led some observers to conclude that the BHK, which controls the second largest faction in parliament, is ready to let Sarkisian complete his second and final presidential term in 2018 in return for some concessions. Tsarukian stoked this speculation last week with a reported meeting held with Sarkisian. The BHK has declined to confirm or deny the confidential encounter.
BHK and HAK representatives sought to downplay the apparent differences between their parties. “There is no discord,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman. “I think it is only natural that there may be differences on the forms of our struggle.”
“We are not accusing or complain about anyone. We are presenting our views … and want our views to prevail,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zurabian also made clear that the HAK will press for the conduct by the opposition trio of at least one more rally in Yerevan before the end of this month. “People are awaiting not rallies but regime change,” the BHK’s Urikhanian commented in that regard.
Senior lawmakers representing the three parties shed no light on their further steps after holding fresh talks later on Monday. The BHK’s Stepan Markarian told reporters that the trio will unveil a new action plan on Wednesday.
Markarian denied a looming rift between his party and its more radical opposition allies. “We are moving on,” he said.