Gagik Tsarukian will hold next month a conference that could shed light on the future of an ongoing anti-government campaign conducted by his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and its opposition allies.
A spokeswoman for Tsarukian, Iveta Tonoyan, said on Tuesday that the BHK leader wants leading Armenian political and civic groups to discuss the “difficult political and economic situation” in the country on January 20. “It will be a consultative event aimed at analyzing what has already been done by the popular movement and discussing next steps,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The BHK as well as the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun parties launched the movement cited by Tonoyan this summer with the stated aim of achieving “regime change.” The three parties, which control around one-third of the Armenian parliament seats, held a series of anti-government rallies in September and October. They subsequently avoided ratcheting up the pressure on President Serzh Sarkisian apparently because of a cautious line taken by the BHK.
Mikael Melkumian, a senior BHK lawmaker, said that Tsarukian’s party prefers “non-risky” actions but would like to also consult with groups not represented in the National Assembly. He said the upcoming conference will help the opposition trio decide what to do next.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, said on December 10 that the trio will soon come up with a “program of joint actions, including mass public gatherings, aimed at expediting complete regime change.” In that context, he made no mention of any extraparliamentary forces.
HAK spokesman Arman Musinian told ilur.am that the BHK informed his party about Tsarukian’s latest initiative beforehand. But he would not say whether HAK representatives will be present at the conference.
By contrast, Zharangutyun welcomed the initiative and confirmed its participation in the gathering. One of its senior figures, Armen Martirosian, expressed hope on Wednesday that the conference will help the BHK, the HAK and Zharangutyun develop a “common agenda.”
Like the HAK, Zharangutyun is seeking a joint effort to force Sarkisian into resignation. Tsarukian and his aides have made more vague statements on this score.
Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) claimed that the conference initiated by Tsarukian reflects a “change of tactics.” “They realized that [street protests] are doomed to failure,” said Vahram Baghdasarian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader. He insisted that the BHK is gearing up for the next regular, rather than pre-term, national elections slated for 2017 and 2018.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Baghdasarian also disputed Tsarukian’s claim that the situation in Armenia is “difficult.” “There are certainly attempts to destabilize and complicate the situation,” he said. “But the situation is under control and we won’t allow instability.”