Armenian National Congress (HAK) leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Wednesday warned his opposition allies against cutting power-sharing deals with President Serzh Sarkisian and urged them to press ahead with joint anti-government rallies planned before Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s resignation.
In an interview with ilur.am, Ter-Petrosian insisted that the head of state forced Tigran Sarkisian and his entire government to resign last week in the hope of averting those protests. He said President Sarkisian is now trying to split the opposition by appointing a “more or less acceptable” prime minister and “luring” opposition figures with ministerial positions.
“I have a sense that the opposition has still not fully realized that it scored a big victory by achieving the prime minister’s resignation with a mere threat of nonstop rallies and that Serzh Sarkisian has at least partly capitulated,” said Ter-Petrosian. “Not building on this success would mean giving Serzh Sarkisian a big present.”
“The opposition must in no case engage in games with Serzh Sarkisian and join any government formed by him even if the post of prime minister is offered to one of the opposition figures,” added Ter-Petrosian. He argued that Sarkisian could easily sack such a premier later on, after weathering the current political storm.
The HAK, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the opposition Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun parties, continued Ter-Petrosian, should therefore jointly rally supporters during upcoming parliamentary debates on a vote of confidence in the new government. The parliament’s failure to install the cabinet would force Sarkisian to hold fresh elections, he said.
Ter-Petrosian’s warning appeared to be primarily addressed to the BHK, the second largest parliamentary force led by Gagik Tsarukian. The latter is thought to be close to parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian, who is reportedly the favorite candidate for premiership. The Armenian press has speculated that Tsarukian might also be offered ministerial posts to stop challenging the Sarkisian administration together with the established opposition.
The BHK and Dashnaktsutyun were part of Armenia’s governing coalition in the past. Neither party has ruled out the possibility of returning to the government.
Stepan Markarian, a senior BHK lawmaker, insisted on Wednesday that such a return is “not on the party’s agenda.” Commenting on Ter-Petrosian’s remarks, Markarian said, “We have not engaged in and will not engage in games with anybody. Political game is a bad thing.”
Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian, meanwhile, made clear that his party will not join the government under any circumstances because it stands for “regime change” in Armenia. Hovannisian, who was the main opposition candidate in last year’s presidential election, said Zharangutyun continues to regard Sarkisian as an illegitimate president. The opposition forces must force him to step down as early as this month, he said.
Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, Hovannisian also repeated his calls for the top leaders of the four parties to meet face to face and discuss their further steps.