Ter-Petrosian portrayed his opposition rival as a showoff who has no specific demands addressed to the Armenian authorities and is trying to mislead the public with his ongoing hunger strike.
Ter-Petrosian came under Zharangutyun fire after he and other prominent members of his Armenian National Congress (HAK) pointedly declined to approach or greet Hovannisian as they led thousands of supporters into Yerevan’s Liberty Square last Thursday.
Hovannisian began his hunger strike in the square two days before the protest, demanding that the government “give the Armenian people back their votes and their voice.” He denounced Ter-Petrosian’s perceived arrogance and accused the HAK leader of seeking to cut secret deals with President Serzh Sarkisian.
HAK representatives have laughed off these claims, saying that “regime change” remains the key aim of their opposition alliance and Hovannisian avoids clearly formulating his objectives. Some of them also say that Hovannisian deliberately timed his action to coincide with the massive HAK rally in order to bask in the public spotlight created by Ter-Petrosian’s renewed campaign of antigovernment street protests.
“Had Raffi Hovannisian gone on a hunger strike with concrete political demands instead of public fasting, I would have not only welcomed but also expressed my full solidarity with him,” Ter-Petrosian said in comments published by the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily.
Ter-Petrosian also derided Hovannisian’s description of the hunger strike as “freedom fast.” “The code of [Christian] morality categorically rejects palpable demonstration of Christian virtues, including fasting,” he said. “When a virtue is put on display it ceases to be a virtue.”
Ter-Petrosian, whose bloc is more radical and influential than Zharangutyun, went on to cite a 5th century Armenian cleric who believed that the devil destroys a fasting person who “places himself above others and wants his asceticism to be trumpeted by others.”
Hovannisian responded to the verbal attacks at an improvised news conference held in Liberty Square. “All I can say is that I wish, sincerely and with love, God’s blessing and a long life to everyone, including the first president [Ter-Petrosian,]” he said. “If someone wishes I was destroyed by the devil, it’s their right.”
The U.S.-born politician also pledged to continue his sit-in without food. “I will continue the hunger strike as long as God gives me strength of will and health,” he said.