President Serzh Sarkisian will not be forced to call snap elections and make other concessions demanded by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), the spokesman for his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Wednesday.
Eduard Sharmazanov rejected a long list of demands voiced by HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian at his latest rally held on Tuesday.
Ter-Petrosian gave the Sarkisian administration until March 15 to accept at least “a considerable part” of those demands or face a popular revolt. He said that is a precondition for dialogue between Armenia’s leadership and largest opposition force.
“If you want any positive change in your country, if your intentions are honest, you have to embark on constructive dialogue, rather than present ultimatums and deadlines to the authorities,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“I think they [the HAK] themselves know very well that setting deadlines, talking with ultimatums is not the way to go and has nothing to do with dialogue,” he said, adding that Sarkisian and his coalition government would only negotiate with the opposition “without preconditions.”
The opposition demands include not only the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections but also the release of Ter-Petrosian loyalists remaining in prison and the resignation of a dozen senior state officials, including Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
Levon Zurabian, a senior HAK representative, claimed on Wednesday that the opposition bloc does hope that President Sarkisian will bow to the pressure. “I think Serzh Sarkisian realizes just how severe the socioeconomic situation in the country is and the extent of popular anger,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I think he himself realizes that taking some steps to alleviate the situation is in his interests.”
Zurabian downplayed the HHK spokesman’s reaction to the opposition demands. “One should never take first reaction too seriously,” he said. “As you remember, [Egypt’s deposed President Hosni] Mubarak too initially spoke very defiantly. He too said he is rejecting ultimatums. But in the end, he had to cave in.”
“So I believe that the political process which we are initiating in the country will very quickly produce results,” added Zurabian.
The HAK plans to hold another rally on March 17 to discuss the authorities’ response to what Ter-Petrosian described as its “last warning.”
Zurabian refused to speculate on what the HAK will do if Sarkisian officially rejects the demands. “We will have something to say and do on that day,” he said without elaborating.