Three leading Armenian opposition parties dismissed on Tuesday a government proposal to open negotiations on a list of demands which they issued before launching joint street protests in September.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian made the offer one week after President Serzh Sarkisian said that the government should “once again address that document” circulated in June by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Zharangutyun parties as well as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Abrahamian’s cabinet claimed to have met some of those demands in its official response to the opposition publicized on October 1. The HAK, the BHK and Zharangutyun said, however, that the response amounted to a rejection of their 12-point ultimatum and vowed to keep up their campaign for “regime change.”
“Nevertheless, our positions are not uncompromising and we are prepared for discussions,” Abrahamian said in a statement made on Tuesday. He suggested that the opposition trio and the government set up joint task forces that would closely examine each opposition demand. “I hope that the opposition will adopt a constructive approach to our offer of cooperation,” added the premier.
The opposition trio was quick to reject the offer. The HAK also boycotted a special meeting of the leaders of the Armenian parliamentary factions which was organized by speaker Galust Sahakian later in the day. “We consider discussions on the 12 points meaningless,” explained Aram Manukian, an HAK deputy.
Lawmakers representing the BHK and Zharangutyun took part in the meeting. But they said they did so only to make clear that the three opposition parties will not accept Abrahamian’s proposal.
“There was no substantive discussion,” the BHK’s Mikael Melkumian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said he told the meeting that the government “had enough time” to address the opposition demands before October.
Ruben Hakobian, Zharangutyun’s parliamentary leader, claimed that the Armenian authorities are simply keen to win more time and prevent fresh anti-government rallies in Yerevan. He argued that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia has repeatedly rejected the most important opposition demand relating to the conduct of elections.
The opposition also demanded in June that the Sarkisian administration 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.