The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party will stage street protests if the Armenian authorities rig the May 6 parliamentary elections, its leader Raffi Hovannisian said on Monday.
“If we have, for the first time since 1991, free and fair and constitutional elections we will congratulate and receive congratulations. But if the elections are rigged, Zharangutyun will be on the street on May 7,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in a video interview broadcast live through the Internet.
The Armenian authorities and President Serzh Sarkisian in particular have repeatedly promised to ensure the proper conduct of the vote. Opposition leaders dismiss these assurances, however.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more radical opposition group, has also warned that it will urge supporters to take to the streets of Yerevan in case of serious fraud. But it is not clear whether the HAK and Zharangutyun are prepared to launch a sustained campaign of anti-government rallies.
Relations between the two opposition forces have deteriorated further in recent weeks because of disagreements on whether the Armenian opposition should cooperate with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a junior partner in the governing coalition, in fighting for the freedom and fairness of the elections.
Zharangutyun leaders have questioned the BHK’s declared commitment to a clean vote. Some of them have also accused the HAK of effectively collaborating with former President Robert Kocharian, who is believed to have close ties with BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian.
HAK loyalists, for their part, allege that Zharangutyun has cut a secret deal with Sarkisian.
Hovannisian flatly denied the allegations. “There is no such deal, it’s impossible,” he said.