The Armenian National Congress (HAK) expects an upcoming rally in Yerevan to become a “test” for political forces critical of the government to determine how firm they are in seeking regime change, a senior representative of the opposition party said.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun), Levon Zurabian, the leader of the HAK’s parliamentary faction, acknowledged lingering uncertainty over the future of the three-party opposition coalition known as the trio after one of its key members, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian, came under government pressure earlier this month.
The HAK, the BHK and Heritage had planned to hold a joint opposition rally in Yerevan last Friday in response to an offensive that President Serzh Sarkisian and his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) launched against Tsarukian on February 12. They said the rally would demand the resignation of President Sarkisian and the holding of snap presidential and parliamentary elections. But after several days of a tense standoff that followed the BHK leader apparently decided to beat a retreat as he expressed readiness to settle disputes by “peaceful” means. The BHK withdrew its participation in the rally, with the HAK saying that it treated the decision of its embattled ally with “understanding”.
Only Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian and his supporters came to Yerevan’s Liberty Square on February 20. Hovannisian said at the rally that the trio effectively did not exist any longer.
The HAK’s Zurabian also sounded vague on the future of the opposition coalition, saying that the onus now is on the BHK to express its position.
“At this moment the BHK is out of the game. Now the BHK itself should say where it stands. After coming under an intimidation campaign the BHK has said nothing,” Zurabian said. “Now the March 1 rally will be a test for the forces that continue their struggle in the name of Armenia no matter what terror they have been subjected to by the regime.”
BHK spokesperson Tigran Urikhanian said on Tuesday that the party is going to hold its next convention in early March. He did not specify whether the issue of Tsarukian’s quitting the party leader’s post will be on the agenda of the gathering. Earlier, some Armenian media alleged that Tsarukian will step down as BHK leader, becoming “honorary chairman” with no real instruments of influencing the party’s policy.