A leading member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) criticized on Thursday U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch for advocating sweeping reforms in Armenia and emphasizing the importance of democracy for its future.
In a speech on Monday, Yovanovitch said “deep and difficult changes” are essential for realizing Sarkisian’s recent pledge to turn the country into a full-fledged democracy. She said the Armenian authorities should apply laws “consistently to everyone,” hold free and fair elections and avoid restricting civil liberties.
“What happens if individuals can’t organize and lobby their government, or if the elections to choose their leaders don’t appear to be free and fair?” she asked in remarks construed by local commentators as a sign of stronger U.S. pressure on the Sarkisian administration.
Galust Sahakian, an HHK deputy chairman leading the ruling party’s parliamentary faction, disapproved of the envoy’s speech. “What the ambassador is saying deserves negative evaluations from us,” he said.
“One must not direct things. Of course, we accept democracy, democratic scenarios, but the subtext of some characterizations [made by Yovanovitch] is not acceptable to us,” Sahakian told a news conference. He did not elaborate.
Yovanovitch delivered the speech at Yerevan State University on the eve of the third anniversary of Armenia’s deadly 2008 post-election unrest. The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) rallied thousands supporters the next day to mark the anniversary and launch what it called a new campaign of antigovernment protests.
The HAK leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, said Sarkisian should call snap elections or face a popular revolt. Ter-Petrosian also presented the president with a long list of other demands, including the release of all “political prisoners.”
Like other senior HHK figures, Sahakian rejected the opposition ultimatum.