A senior representative of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has ridiculed the statements made by opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, implying that his recent interviews are damaging to his reputation as the country’s first president.
Speaking to the media after the meeting of the HHK’s executive body late on Thursday, Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and spokesperson for the party, in particular, dismissed Ter-Petrosian’s claims that the current government uses pressure against its political opponents to secure an unimpeded implementation of a controversial constitutional reform.
In an interview with ilur.am published on Monday Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia’s president in 1991-98 and now heads the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), in particular, accused President Serzh Sarkisian and his government of planning to coerce the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) into dropping its opposition to the proposed changes to the Constitution. Many opposition groups in Armenia see ulterior reasons behind the proposed reform, fearing that President Sarkisian is thus preparing the ground for staying in power beyond 2018 when his second and last term as president expires.
The BHK, which quit the ruling coalition in 2012, is one of the key allies of the HHK in the informal four-party minority coalition today.
“While until recently he [Sarkisian] tried to overcome this obstacle by using a carrot, that is, to win the party over by promises, then now, according to the information that we have, he is going to use the stick by employing the entire law-enforcement machine against the BHK, using threats and blackmail,” the opposition leader said, adding that “other opposition parties and the entire society cannot tolerate it.”
Responding to this accusation, Sharmazanov emphasized that the HHK-led government has not used pressure against political opponents.
“Maybe there were pressures in the distant past, during the first decade of Armenia’s existence as an independent state. Perhaps he [Ter-Petrosian] knows better whether there were pressures during his government or not. But under the HHK government we have reached the level when every day we have a more democratic, pluralistic and tolerant society,” Sharmazanov said.
At the same time, he said that by acting as an advocate of another political force Ter-Petrosian reduces his ‘political weight’ as first president.
Sharmazanov suggested that the Ter-Petrosian party no longer “sets the political agenda” and that it is “hardly considered to be influential even among its own allies.”
“In his recent interviews the first president has been doing everything for us to forget that he was ever the president of the Republic of Armenia. He has lowered his bar so much that sometimes it is good that you remind me that Ter-Petrosian once was president and not the defender of another political party or some group of people,” the HHK spokesperson commented poignantly.
Head of the HHK parliamentary faction Levon Zurabian, meanwhile, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday that the kind of ‘nervous reaction’ of HHK members shows that “they are very worried.”