“It is very possible that pre-term elections will take place in Armenia, and that would mainly be conditioned by the Artsakh (Karabakh) conflict,” said Ruben Hakobian of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “The return of any [Azerbaijani] district, any liberated territory would meet with serious opposition in Armenia and Artsakh.”
“Even the slightest change in the status quo [in the conflict zone] would seriously escalate the situation in Armenia, which I think would result in regime change,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in an interview.
Unlike the Sarkisian administration, Zharangutyun is strongly opposed to international mediators’ existing peace proposals that call for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all Azerbaijani districts surrounding Karabakh. It has also been highly critical of Sarkisian’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey.
Hakobian, who joined the party earlier this year, said leadership change in the country is essential for a “radical change” of these policies. “Even if these authorities want to get out of the negotiating process, they can’t do that, they can’t radically change their position and reject the [mediators’] Madrid Principles,” he said. “Only a new government can do that.”
Zharangutyun’s hard line on Karabakh and Turkish-Armenian relations is shared by another major opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), of which Hakobian was a senior member until 2008. But the country’s largest opposition force, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), is thought to be more open to a compromise deal with Azerbaijan.
In a speech on Saturday, Ter-Petrosian said a Karabakh settlement is a necessary condition for Armenia’s long-term security and sustainable development. The statement prompted stern rebukes from Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun representatives.
Speaking to RFE/RL, Hakobian also said that ground-breaking developments in the Karabakh negotiating process are the only factor that could seriously threaten President Sarkisian’s hold on power. “Right now the opposition lacks the strength and necessary unity to trigger to fresh elections,” he said.