Nikol Pashinian, a prominent opposition figure, on Monday challenged Armenia’s three leading opposition parties to prove their stated commitment to “regime change” by trying to impeach President Serzh Sarkisian.
Pashinian said he will formally present the Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Zharangutyun parties with a motion to call an emergency parliament session that would debate impeachment proceedings against Sarkisian. He argued that they control more than 44 parliament seats needed for initiating such a debate.
“Nothing prevents their 44 deputies from signing the document, including the issue on the parliament agenda, and rallying what they call ‘the people of Liberty Square’ by the [parliament] gates so that we all demand Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation,” Pashinian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Ahead of their October 10 rally [in Yerevan] they were saying that we will wake up in a totally different Armenia on October 11,” he said. “Today is November 24. More than one month has passed since the date of the promised new Armenia.”
“With this political initiative I am trying to welcome the idea of a totally different Armenia and make my contribution to the fulfillment of the trio’s pledge to end the ‘heated political autumn’ with regime change,” added the outspoken oppositionist formerly affiliated with the HAK.
Representatives of the opposition trio did not immediately back or dismiss the idea. The BHK’s Mikael Melkumian said they will respond only after jointly discussing it.
While agreeing on the need for eventual “regime change” in Armenia, the three parties have made differing statements on the precise goal of their joint campaign of anti-government protests. The HAK and Zharangutyun have repeatedly called for Sarkisian’s ouster, while the larger BHK has taken a more cautious and ambiguous line. Some BHK leaders have hinted that they are ready to let the president serve out his second and final term in return for some concessions relating to the conduct of parliamentary elections.
Pashinian, who set up his own opposition group called Civil Contract last year, questioned the declared objectives of the three parties after their first major rally in Yerevan held on October 10. He suggested on October 13 that they are keen to cut power-sharing deals with Sarkisian, rather than force him to step down or call snap elections.
Pashinian, 38, was a key backer of HAK leader Ter-Petrosian’s 2008 bid to scuttle a handover of power from former President Robert Kocharian to Sarkisian in a disputed presidential election. Like dozens of other oppositionists, the former newspaper editor went into hiding following a deadly suppression of Ter-Petrosian’s post-election street protests in Yerevan. He subsequently surrendered to law-enforcement bodies and spent nearly two years in prison on controversial charges.
Pashinian fell out with Ter-Petrosian in 2012, strongly objecting to the HAK leader’s pursuit of close cooperation with Tsarukian’s BHK because of the latter’s alleged links to Kocharian.