President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) cancelled a planned rally in downtown Yerevan on Thursday, citing the need not to heighten political tension in the country following Monday’s presidential election.
The HHK also urged Raffi Hovannisian, the main opposition presidential candidate, to recognize his defeat in the vote.
The ruling party was due to celebrate Sarkisian’s disputed victory in Yerevan’s Liberty Square at the rally scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Hovannisian, who considers himself the rightful election winner, on Wednesday urged thousands of supporters to confront Sarkisian there and demand “the transfer of power to the people.”
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov cited the opposition leader’s “adventurist and unconstitutional calls” as he commented on the party’s decision not to go ahead with the gathering. “A meeting of two sections of our society could have had undesirable consequences,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “And that’s not what we want. Our goal is unity and tolerance, and we must do everything to prevent even a theoretical outbreak of tension.”
The preliminary election results released by the Central Election Commission (CEC) gave Sarkisian 58.6 percent of the vote, enough to win a second term outright. According to the CEC, Hovannisian got 36.8 percent. Another opposition candidate, Hrant Bagratian, finished a distant third with 2.2 percent.
Hovannisian refused to concede defeat, accusing the Armenian authorities of rigging the ballot. The Sarkisian campaign rejects these allegations, arguing that international observers have given a largely positive assessment of the election conduct.
“It’s a widely accepted practice in the world for the defeated candidate to congratulate the victorious candidate,” said Sharmazanov. “Especially given that the quality of our democratic elections was unprecedented.”
Another senior HHK figure, Education Minister Armen Ashotian, also urged Hovannisian to recognize the legitimacy of Sarkisian’s reelection. “One should learn to admit his defeat,” Ashotian told reporters
“Our number one opposition rival conducted the whole election campaign in a civilized Western-style manner and this presupposed that the post-election actions should also be within the framework of a culture which that candidate tried to introduce in Armenia,” he said. “Unfortunately, post-election developments seem to be based on a [different] culture left over from the previous elections. And yet the Western culture presupposes that defeated candidates must be the first to call and congratulate the elected president.”