A coalition of opposition and civic groups launched its nationwide campaign against President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes on Friday with a rally in Gyumri attended by several hundred people.
Leaders of the group comprising the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun parties reiterated their claims that Sarkisian wants to turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic as part of his plans to stay in power after his second and final term ends in 2018.
“Say no to these false constitutional changes and yes to free and independent Armenia without Serzh Sarkisian,” Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian told the crowd that gathered in a central Gyumri square.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, likewise called for a “no” vote in a referendum on the proposed amendments to Armenia’s constitution due in November or early December. He said it would amount to a popular vote of no confidence in Sarkisian and his administration’s policies.
“Our country, which is at war needs a president, but not Serzh,” declared another senior HAK figure, Aram Manukian. “Serzh is [effectively] abolishing the post of president in order to realize his dark, secret dream: to stay on as president forever.”
It was announced that the No Front coalition, which comprises about three dozen organizations, will hold its next rally in Yerevan on October 2. The grouping also plans to rally supporters in other parts of Armenia.
Responding to the opposition allegations, Sarkisian has said that he will not seek to become prime minister or parliament speaker in case of Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government.