Armenia’s key opposition parties seeking an immediate regime change have decided to hold a joint “urgent” rally in Yerevan next Friday in response to a government crackdown against one of them.
The leaders of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Heritage met late on Sunday to discuss further steps of their alliance known as the trio after President Serzh Sarkisian told his ruling Republican Party of Armenia that Gagik Tsarukian, who heads the BHK, is “evil” and must be excluded from the political process.
Earlier, Tsarukian effectively warned Sarkisian to give up his plans for reforming the Constitution, which are seen by the BHK and other major opposition groups as an attempt by the current administration to consolidate its grip on power, or face street protests organized by the opposition.
The trio released a joint statement tonight, saying that Tsarukian, the HAK’s Levon Ter-Petrosian and Heritage’s Raffi Hovannisian and their extended delegations discussed the current “internal political emergency” during their meeting.
Invoking the law on freedom of assembly, the three parties said they would call their joint “urgent all-national rally” for February 20 “in order to discuss the situation with citizens and make a decision for resolving the situation.” Under Armenia’s law, holding ‘urgent’ rallies does not require notification of local authorities well in advance of the event.
The HAK and Heritage are known to have been seeking the resignation of President Sarkisian for years. Ter-Petrosian, who was independent Armenia’s first president in 1991-1998, and Hovannisian, who briefly served as Armenia’s foreign minister in the early 1990s, were the main rivals of Sarkisian in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2013, respectively. Both opposition leaders refused to recognize Sarkisian’s official victories in those ballots and staged post-election protests.
BHK leader Tsarukian did not openly demand Sarkisian’s resignation until last Friday when he responded to the president’s offensive.
The three opposition parties plan to gather their supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. They already held two well-attended rallies in the Armenian capital last fall.