The ruling Republican Party (HHK) and two major opposition parties began negotiations on Thursday on ways of preventing a political crisis in Armenia amid continuing opposition demonstrations against official results of last week’s presidential election.
Senior lawmakers from the HHK and the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) tried to agree on the agenda of an emergency session of the parliament on the post-election tensions in the country.
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian proposed such a session on behalf of the HHK-controlled majority in the National Assembly on Wednesday. But he said the debate will take place only if the main parliament factions agree on its agenda.
The pro-government and opposition lawmakers failed to reach any agreements at their first meeting that lasted for more than an hour. But they said they will meet again on Friday to try to work out a mutually acceptable solution.
The Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun representatives proposed a three-point agenda that included holding fresh parliamentary elections this year and enacting constitutional reforms that would turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic.
Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, criticized the opposition proposals as too “tough.” He said the Armenian authorities will not agree to snap parliamentary elections.
Sahakian told reporters that he and other Republicans submitted their proposals to their opposition colleagues. But he refused to disclose them.
Abrahamian said that the Armenian government is ready to consider “reasonable proposals” from Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian, President Serzh Sarkisian’s main challenger in the February 18 election. He indicated that the government could, in particular, offer ministerial posts to Zharangutyun.
“We don’t regard that as a reasonable offer,” said Ruben Hakobian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman who also took part in the talks. He said Hovannisian’s party is not interested in cutting power-sharing deals with Sarkisian.
The talks came as Hovannisian again rallied thousands of people in Yerevan to denounce the election as fraudulent and demand that Sarkisian “return power to the people.” Addressing supporters in Liberty Square, he avoided shedding light on his further actions, promising to “clearly answer many questions” at the next rally scheduled for Saturday. Hovannisian said he will also clarify whether he will appeal to the Constitutional Court to annul the official vote results that gave victory to the incumbent.
Hovannisian further urged supporters to gather elsewhere in the city center on Friday to mark the fifth anniversary of deadly violence that followed the previous Armenian presidential election. Supporters of Levon Ter-Petrosian, another opposition leader who was Sarkisian’s main vote challenger in 2008, are expected to join the commemoration.
Ter-Petrosian has declared Hovannisian the legitimate winner of the 2013 ballot but avoided joining his campaign of anti-government protests, citing the lack of a clear action plan presented by the Zharangutyun leader.