A senior member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has described as a “provocation” the calls for disobedience that were made during the Wednesday gathering of several opposition groups that announced their plans for street protests ahead of an upcoming constitutional referendum.
Presenting the joint ‘regime change’ plan of his Founding Parliament group and Raffi Hovannisian’s opposition Heritage party, radical opposition leader Jirair Sefilian announced during an indoor meeting that the New Armenia group will embark on a fresh push for regime change on December 1 with sustained street protests aimed at ousting the current leadership before the constitutional referendum slated for December 6.
“If this time they [the authorities] dare use force against peaceful protesters, an adequate response should be given,” stressed Sefilian, who along with several other radical opposition members was arrested in April and kept in prison for several weeks for allegedly trying to organize violent riots on the day when Armenia marked the centennial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the head of the HHK parliamentary faction, warned today that the country’s “law-enforcement authorities will not be idling”.
“Peoples of this type need to be treated accordingly, within the framework of the law. Do you think the law-enforcement bodies will be doing nothing while these people will be making calls for disobedience and trying to provoke clashes with their own people? We are not going to allow this,” Baghdasarian said.
In their statements Heritage and Founding Parliament representatives said that they will take to the streets to avert the constitutional referendum because “it is impossible to remove [President] Serzh Sarkisian by means of elections.”
The HHK lawmaker said: “It was expected, because they have no grounds for saying ‘No’ to the constitutional reform, they have just one song and rely on creating tensions in the domestic political situation by means of such provocative actions and calls for disobedience to try to somehow take advantage of these opportunities.”
The criminal cases that were opened against Sefilian and some other oppositionists over their alleged plans for staging violent riots on April 24 have not been closed yet. Charges against several opposition politicians have not been dropped yet.
Some observers in Armenia believe that the April arrests prevented larger-scale protests during the events marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The ruling party’s representative again defended those arrests, saying that everything was done in keeping with the law. He stressed that now they will not allow the “provocateurs” to prevent the holding of the referendum.
“And do you know how people who decay their country’s internal political situation and, what’s more, give information to the countries not friendly to us are qualified? I cannot give estimations to the calls with which they try to undermine our country’s prestige in the international arena. I think our public will give its estimations to them,” Baghdasarian said.
Members of the Founding Parliament took Baghdasarian’s statements as a threat, but said that they are prepared for possible violence from the authorities.
Activist Varuzhan Avetisian stressed that by saying “dissobedience” they mean only actions within the framework of the law.