The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), which has not joined a newly established anti-government “front”, says it does not mean that the “No” campaign ahead of the controversial constitutional referendum has collapsed.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, gave assurances on Tuesday that unessential differences will not prevent them from continuing their joint struggle.
On Monday, opposition Heritage party leader Raffi Hovannisian and bitter government critic Jirair Sefilian announced the launch of a new campaign opposing the constitutional amendments but primarily aimed at achieving regime change in Armenia.
Zurabian said: “Naturally, there are some differences, but we have a clear agreement that since we all believe in the same goal, since we all want the same thing, we hold joint actions on what we agree. These are, for instance, public rallies, joint statements, etc. Where there is no agreement, each political force does what it deems right.”
Opponents of the constitutional changes under which Armenia will be turned into a parliamentary republic maintain that they are aimed at enabling current President Serzh Sarkisian to indefinitely stay in power in a different capacity after the end of his second and final presidential term in 2018.
Sarkisian has denied that he intends to become prime minister or parliament speaker if the amendments are adopted. The president, his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and other political allies say that such a radical change would, on the contrary, decentralize power and facilitate the country’s democratization.
A number of opposition forces plan to hold a rally on October 30 to mark the launch of a joint campaign against the controversial reform that is put to a referendum due on December 6.
Meanwhile, the HAK’s Zurabian on Tuesday repeated his allegations that the Sarkisian administration has bribed or coerced a number of local opposition parties and figures to express a positive opinion of the planned changes. He, in particular, claimed that the post of the country’s largely ceremonial president after 2018 has been promised to Gagik Harutiunian, the current chairman of the Armenian Constitutional Court who has presided over the commission that drafted the constitutional amendments.
Earlier, in his public comments Zurabian also accused the authorities of “bribing” the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe body advising governments on legal reforms, for a positive opinion on the planned constitutional changes.
The Armenian police were ordered on Monday to launch a probe into the allegations.
Vahram Baghdasarian, head of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, defended the probe, but said that if it fails to verify the claim, “appropriate action should be taken against the one who made the allegation.”
Meanwhile, in reply to the police’s request to provide evidence substantiating his claim, Zurabian today expressed his distrust towards the law-enforcement bodies and bewilderment as to why they started proceedings into his political statement, while numerous other cases raised by the opposition remain unaddressed.