Galust Sahakian at the same time warned of a repeat of deadly unrest that followed by Armenia’s disputed 2008 presidential election.
The police have repeatedly warned the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) that its tent camp set up in the square on Friday was not sanctioned by municipal authorities and is therefore illegal. But in a weekend statement, they indicated that security forces will not attempt to forcibly end the protests for now.
Sahakian criticized this stance, saying that it runs counter to Armenia’s laws and could result in “negative consequences.” “I wouldn’t allow [the opposition demonstration] even for one day because that is a violation of the law,” he told journalists. “I stand for the proper enforcement of the law.”
“The police should ban the rallies,” said Sahakian.
It was not immediately clear if the remarks reflected the HHK’s official position. Other senior representatives of the presidential party and its two junior coalition partners on Monday likewise described the opposition actions as illegal.
The Armenian police and other security bodies already used force to break up on March 1, 2008 similar protests that were organized by HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian in Liberty Square in the immediate aftermath of the presidential election.
The pre-dawn operation, which involved mass arrests and beatings of opposition activists, triggered vicious clashes elsewhere in central Yerevan later that day. Eight opposition protesters and two security personnel died as a result.
Sahakian claimed that Ter-Petrosian might provoke a repeat of that deadly violence. “The events of March 1, 2008 occurred because the then authorities did not enforce the law and we got an unpredictable crowd that didn’t obey anyone,” he said.