President Serzh Sarkisian said through a spokesman on Monday that his main election challenger, Raffi Hovannisian, has rejected an offer to again meet him and discuss continuing post-election tensions in Armenia.
Armen Arzumanian, the presidential press secretary, told Panorama.am that the chief of Sarkisian’s staff relayed the official invitation to Hovannisian in a phone call on Sunday.
Arzumanian did not clarify whether the conversation took place after Hovannisian began a hunger strike during a rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. The opposition leader is demanding a rerun of the February 18 presidential election which he claims was rigged by the government.
“We note with regret Mr. Hovannisian’s refusal to examine all outstanding issues comprehensively and in detail,” said Arzumanian. “We can only hope that Mr. Hovannisian has correctly evaluated the situation and is soberly conscious of dangers stemming from the de facto rejection of dialogue.”
Hovannisian strongly denied Arzumanian’s claims as he continued the hunger strike in the square. “Lies and deceit from the [presidential] palace are continuing,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Either they will change course or things will be bad for all of us.”
“They are deliberately spreading disinformation. As I have said for many times, I am waiting for Mr. Sarkisian to come here at his convenience and address this issue face to face,” he added.
Hovannisian and Sarkisian already met at the presidential palace three days after the election. They reached no agreements, with Sarkisian reportedly ruling out the conduct of a repeat ballot. According to Hovannisian, the president also rejected his compromise proposal to call fresh parliamentary elections.
The presidential camp proposed afterwards that Hovannisian personally head an ad hoc parliamentary commission on constitutional reforms favored by the Armenian opposition.
Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said on Monday that the authorities are also ready to appoint representatives of Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party and other opposition groups to oversight bodies such as the parliament’s Audit Chamber and the State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition. The authorities could even consider letting opposition members run those bodies, he said.
Hovannisian declared on Sunday that Sarkisian can be sworn in for a second term only “over my dead body,” signaling his intention to remain on hunger strike at least until the inauguration ceremony slated for April 9.
“Serzh Sarkisian and his political team will never … go over the dead bodies of people dear to them,” Sahakian replied at a news conference.