Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian made clear on Wednesday that he will not join the ongoing anti-government protests in Yerevan organized by more radical opposition forces, questioning their ability to unseat President Serzh Sarkisian.
Pashinian said those groups making up the New Armenia Public Salvation Front have yet to present a clear plan of actions. “Regime change is not something that can come out of a clear blue sky,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Our colleagues should describe what events will take place within, say, 24 hours preceding regime change which would force Serzh Sarkisian to resign,” Pashinian said. “When they invite people to the square they should explicitly explain what they are going to do. Are they going to seize the presidential palace or the government building?”
Zhirayr Sefilian, a New Armenia leader, urged Pashinian and other mainstream opposition figures join the anti-government “revolution” when he addressed several thousand people that gathered in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Tuesday. The rally marked the beginning of nonstop protests which the opposition alliance says will result in “regime change” in the country.
Pashinian, who leads a nascent opposition party called Civil Contract, dismissed the Sefilian’s appeal. “Civil Contact and I haven’t received any roadmap to regime change for consideration,” he said. “Nor have I seen any roadmap published in the press. Do they first invite people to the square and then discuss how they will achieve regime change?”
“Suppose we go to Liberty Square today. What will we do there? What specific objectives will we achieve today, tomorrow or the day after?” asked the outspoken oppositionist.
Pashinian, 40, was a key speaker during much bigger opposition demonstrations that were sparked by a disputed presidential election in 2008. He was among top allies of Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in that ballot, who went into hiding after the Armenian authorities quelled the protests in a crackdown that left ten people dead. He subsequently surrendered to law-enforcement bodies and spent about two years in prison on controversial coup charges.
Pashinian, who is popular with many opposition supporters due to his tough anti-government rhetoric, fell out with Ter-Petrosian in 2012 before deciding to set up his own party. He has since been stressing that the Armenian opposition should try to topple the ruling regime with street protests only if it is certain about the success of such an effort.
Unlike New Armenia and Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), Civil Contract is not trying to thwart President Serzh Sarkisian’s plans to turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic through constitutional changes put on a December 6 referendum. Pashinian’s party says that the government system will be unimportant as long as vote rigging remains the norm in the country.