Ter-Petrosian at the same time assured several thousand supporters rallying in Yerevan’s Liberty Square that Sarkisian will soon agree to the format of a dialogue favored by the HAK. “I think that is a temporary uncertainty that will be overcome soon,” he said.
While reaffirming his stated support for such a dialogue, Sarkisian made clear earlier this month that there will be no formal negotiations between his administration and the opposition alliance. Sarkisian said “specially designated individuals” from the HAK could only discuss concrete proposals at separate meetings with relevant state officials or representatives of the three political parties represented in his coalition cabinet.
Ter-Petrosian rejected these conditions, saying that the words dialogue and negotiation are “almost synonyms” and that “there is no other way of engaging in dialogue.”
“I am confident, however, that this is a temporary uncertainty conditioned by the incomprehension of [Sarkisian’s] entourage or the unusualness of the situation,” he said. “People are just not used [to dialogue.]”
“Therefore, no matter how much the authorities persist … they will ultimately talk to us at the level of a delegation,” he added.
Ter-Petrosian also insisted on HAK demands for the holding of fresh presidential and parliamentary elections. Sarkisian and his coalition have categorically ruled out such possibility.
“No matter how much our authorities persist and try to stall for time, they will sooner or later be forced to hold pre-term elections,” claimed Ter-Petrosian.
“Or else, what we call a reasonable time frame will be deemed expired at the beginning of September and only one issue will remain on our agenda: not pre-term elections but the unconditional resignation of Serzh Sarkisian and the ruling coalition,” he warned without elaborating.
Levon Zurabian, a close Ter-Petrosian aide coordinating the HAK’s day-to-day activities, clarified that the opposition bloc is ready to launch non-stop street protests. “The people will gather in the square and won’t leave until you go,” Zurabian said, addressing the authorities.
Ter-Petrosian has steered clear of a new decisive push for power ever since the March 2008 suppression of his massive demonstrations in Yerevan that left ten people dead.
Speaking at the previous HAK rally held on May 31, he stated that there is not enough popular enthusiasm for another standoff with the government. Besides, he argued, the HAK “categorically rejects the revolutionary way of struggle.”
The HAK leader already issued the Armenian authorities with similar ultimatums earlier this year. In particular, Ter-Petrosian warned them in February to call snap elections or face the kind of revolts that have rocked Arab states. He gave Sarkisian a “last warning” on the March 1 anniversary of the 2008 unrest.
The HAK leader subsequently softened his rhetoric, saying that the HAK will be ready to negotiate with the authorities if they free all oppositionists remaining in prison and promise a more objective and thorough inquiry into the unrest. Sarkisian essentially met these demands, paving the way for the dialogue.
Attendance at the HAK’s periodical rallies has steadily declined since April. Thursday’s protest clearly drew the smallest crowd.
The Armenian police put the number of its participants at around 4,000. Police estimates of the size of crowds at earlier HAK gatherings were twice higher.