Holding another rally in Yerevan, opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday demanded snap parliamentary elections and other serious government concessions in what he described as his last compromise proposal to President Serzh Sarkisian.
“If you want to carry on as de facto president after the stolen, rigged and unconstitutional election without a popular mandate, I want to give you another option,” he said, appealing to Sarkisian on the 12th day of his hunger strike against the official results of the February 18 vote.
Hovannisian went on to list five demands that were submitted to the presidential administration in writing after the rally. They include the holding of pre-term parliamentary elections this year on the solely party-list basis and major legislative changes that would supposedly preclude their falsification.
Hovannisian also demanded that Sarkisian appoint individuals handpicked by the opposition leader to run a number of key state institutions, including the ministries of justice, foreign affairs and education, the government’s tax collection agency, the Office of the Prosecutor-General and the National Security Service (NSS). The Armenian authorities should also sack and prosecute officials responsible for vote rigging, he said.
The leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, who was Sarkisian’s main challenger in the presidential election, demonstratively put the letter into an envelope which he sealed with his signature.
Hovannisian, who claims to be the rightful election winner, already urged Sarkisian to call fresh legislative polls when they met at the presidential residence on February 21. The president rejected the idea and offered to appoint Hovannisian as head of a special state commission that would be tasked with drafting sweeping amendments to the Armenian Constitution.
Sarkisian reiterated this proposal in a letter delivered to Hovannisian’s aides on Thursday. The Zharangutyun leadership dismissed it as inadequate.
Speaking at the latest opposition rally, Hovannisian made clear that he will continue his hunger strike and street protests at least until Sarkisian’s inauguration for a second term due on April 9. He scheduled his next, “landmark” demonstration for March 29.
Sarkisian downplayed the significance of the continuing anti-government protests earlier this week. He said only a tiny segment of Armenia’s population is taking part in them. He also underlined the fact that international observers and foreign governments recognize the legitimacy of his reelection.
Friday’s rally attended by thousands of people featured speeches not only by opposition politicians but also Hovannisian’s father Richard, a renowned U.S. historian of Armenian descent. He said he was against Raffi’s presidential run because he feared that “they would suppress him and that would be a political suicide.”
“I am very happy to be wrong,” Richard Hovannisian told the crowd. “You have thrilled not only Armenia but also the entire Diaspora that has received new hope and prospects for its role in this country’s prosperity”
The 80-year-old scholar specializing in Armenian and Middle Eastern history at the same stressed the need for “calm” in Armenia. “I hope we will find a way of dialogue and mutual compromise,” he said.