The deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party on Monday accused rival opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian of misleading the public and cutting a secret deal with President Serzh Sarkisian.
Ruben Hakobian also announced that Zharangutyun is now seeking to form a new opposition alliance that would challenge not only the Armenian government but also Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK).
In remarks that will further heighten tensions Zharangutyun and the HAK, Hakobian claimed that Sarkisian has already agreed to call snap parliamentary elections this year. In return, he said, the HAK will no longer demand the conduct of a fresh presidential election.
“There is a certain agreement between the HAK and the authorities on the holding of pre-term elections to the National Assembly,” Hakobian told a news conference. “It would be very beneficial for the HAK to take part in fresh elections at this juncture.”
“This once again demonstrates that we are dealing with a political force that has completely renounced principles and is trying to show through some manipulations that the authorities could make some concessions under its pressure,” he charged.
The HAK appeared to brush aside the allegations. “The target of our criticism is the authorities. Our debate, struggle and, if you like, confrontation is with the authorities,” its central office coordinator, Levon Zurabian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in a written statement.
“We will not be drawn into debate with any force outside the ruling coalition and we would give the same advice to all those forces claim to be in opposition,” said Zurabian.
Relations between the two opposition forces have deteriorated dramatically since Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian’s recent hunger strike in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. Ter-Petrosian controversially shunned Hovannisian as he rallied thousands of supporters there on March 17.
Hovannisian afterwards accused Armenia’s first president of arrogance and intolerance and suggested that the HAK is ready to cut far-reaching deals with the Armenian government. Ter-Petrosian and his associates dismissed the accusations.
Speaking at the next HAK rally held on Friday, Ter-Petrosian rebutted verbal attacks from Zharangutyun and other opposition groups. He suggested that they are disinterested in a dialogue between the Sarkisian administration and his opposition alliance.
Ter-Petrosian reiterated that such a dialogue could start only if the authorities free his loyalists remaining in prison and agree to an independent inquiry into the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan. He and other HAK figures have also said that it could only focus on fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.
According to Hakobian, Zharangutyun has been negotiating with other “political forces” on the formation of an alliance that would “counterbalance” both the government and the HAK. He refused to name any of those forces.