Authorities in the Armenian capital have not approved at short notice the opposition bid to hold a rally in a central Yerevan square later this week, explaining that the request submitted by three political parties is short of necessary grounds.
The leaders of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Heritage met late on Sunday to discuss their joint response to a crackdown launched by President Serzh Sarkisian and his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) against Gagik Tsarukian, who heads the BHK.
Invoking Armenia’s law on freedom of assembly, the three parties known as the trio said they would call their joint “urgent all-national rally” for February 20. Under Armenia’s law, holding ‘urgent’ rallies does not require notification of local authorities well in advance of the event.
But the Yerevan Mayor’s Office said today that the official justification of the “urgency” of the rally, i.e. “to respond to the president’s February 12 speech” does not provide sufficient grounds for applying the provision of the law.
“The explanations of the Mayor’s Office have nothing to do with the law,” HAK parliamentary leader Levon Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun). “I have no doubt that the rally will take place anyway.”
Earlier, some representatives of the opposition alliance seeking a regime change did not rule out that sit-ins and other nonstop actions would be launched in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Friday.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, who is also a spokesperson for the HHK, however, ruled out the possibility of a change of government in Armenia through street protests. He urged the opposition to remain “within the limits of the law”.
“Whether there is a change of government or not should be decided during elections. People have given the HHK a mandate till 2017 and President Serzh Sarkisian a mandate till 2018. The rest will be decided during regular elections as it is done in all normal countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of BHK lawmakers on Monday announced their decision to quit the party amid the apparent government crackdown. Earlier, BHK parliamentary faction secretary Naira Zohrabian said they did not expect any mass defections from the party.