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Ter-Petrosian Pushes For Broader Opposition Collaboration


Armenia -- Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian at the HAK rally, Yerevan 12Jun2009

Armenia’s main opposition has again called on all “democratic forces” to join its continuing push for a leadership change in the country, indicating that last month’s elections to Yerevan’s municipal council swept by the ruling party brought forth no need for changing its further action mode.

Addressing thousands of his supporters at a rally in downtown Yerevan late on Friday, former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan said his Armenian National Congress (HAK) has never intended to establish hegemony for the opposition field or assimilated other political parties.

“The most important thing for us has been not a structural homogeneousness, but a common understanding of opposition political forces of the need for solving major problems facing the country,” Ter-Petrosian said. “The HAK will never refuse cooperation with any opposition force.”

Last week, the HAK indicated its readiness for broader cooperation with all “democratic political forces” in fighting for the “establishment of democracy” in Armenia, including greater cooperation with the parliamentary opposition represented by the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party as well as its longtime antagonist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).

Both political parties have, by and large, shared the HAK’s position that the May 31 municipal polls in Yerevan giving an outright victory to the Republican Party of Armenia fell short of the democratic standards of holding elections.

Zharangutyun’s leader Raffi Hovannisian responded to the call on Monday as he urged the HAK and Dashnaktsutyun to put aside their differences and start “a series of consultations” aimed at creating a “new cooperation framework.”

Dashnaktsutyun, which strongly opposed Armenia’s first post-Soviet government led by Ter-Petrosian from 1991 to 1998 and was controversially banned by the latter in 1994, was a major ally of Ter-Petrosian’s successor Robert Kocharian and, until recently, President Serzh Sarkisian. The nationalist party, however, pulled out of the governing coalition only weeks before the municipal elections in the Armenian capital citing foreign-policy differences with the Sarkisian administration, in particular over the continuing thaw in Armenian-Turkish relations. The party fared poorly in the May 31 vote and later effectively refused to accept its official results and approved the HAK decision to abandon its 13 seats in the city’s new municipal council in protest against alleged widespread rigging.

Zharangutyun, in contrast, backed Ter-Petrosian’s election bid in last year’s presidential race and was also effectively on its side in the latest mayoral elections by deciding not to field its own list of candidates.

Dashnaktsutyun has made it clear that it is not ready to respond to the overtures from the HAK and Zharangutyun citing ideological differences with the former.

Meanwhile, Ter-Petrosian on Friday appreciated the support provided by Zharangutyun to the opposition’s popular movement, including its latest work within the Fact-Finding Group of Experts conducting a probe into the circumstances of last year’s deadly post-election clashes.

“As for other political parties, in particular Dashnaktsutyun and [governing coalition member] Prosperous Armenia, they still have to become opposition so that there is a need to cooperate with them. Though, it should be noted that Dashnaktsutyun appears to have embarked on the path of becoming opposition, which, no doubt, can open the door for dialogue,” said Ter-Petrosian.

“The opposition field is so wide that it can make room for all. We are ready to welcome any political party to the opposition camp without fearing competition and without missing any opportunity for cooperation.”

In his 45-minute speech at the rally Ter-Petrosian made further accusations against President Sarkisian blaming him for “criminalizing” the May 31 vote in Yerevan.

“The criminalization of the elections could be regarded as an individual case if there were no tendency for a total criminalization of the country’s governance,” the opposition leader charged.

Ter-Petrosian also criticized the West for effectively conniving at the fraudulent conduct of the elections. Calling on his supporters to get rid of illusions about the “justice” of the West, Ter-Petrosian at the same time said that this skepticism should not spread on western or panhuman values to which, he said, the Armenian people has provided its strong commitment.

The opposition leader also warned political analysts and media pundits against making serious efforts to analyze the officially announced results of the Yerevan vote and thus making far-going conclusions about a possible reshape in the political field “in order not to legitimize the elections that cannot be called such.”

Ter-Petrosian said the HAK “has come out of the Yerevan election stronger” and has “no worries” since the election results have no connection with the reality. He added that the opposition will continue to seek a leadership change using only constitutional means, “which has fully justified itself by turning the Congress into a viable institutional force in the past year and a half.”

The HAK announced a break in public rallies until September 18 as its leader repeated his call for all democratic political forces to rally around the opposition platform.

As part of this platform, Ter-Petrosian suggested a dozen points of cooperation, including the demand that the Sarkisian administration stop questioning the fact of genocide by agreeing to establish a joint Armenian-Turkish panel of experts to study the historical background of Ottoman-era killings of more than a million Armenians and efforts to avert great Armenian concessions in the continuing negotiations with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Other points unveiled by the opposition leader included the release of jailed opposition members, a credible international investigation of the deadly unrest of March 1-2, 2008, a major overhaul of the country’s electoral system and abolishing economic monopolies, etc.
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