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Ohanian Wants Joint Opposition Push For ‘Regime Change’


Armenia - Opposition leaders Raffi Hovannisian (L), Seyran Ohanian (C) and Vartan Oskanian at a news conference in Yerevan, 31Mar2017.

Former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said on Friday that his ORO alliance hopes to form a coalition with other opposition forces and unseat Armenia’s government as a result of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Ohanian said that President Serzh Sarkisian’s political opponents should create “an axis that will effect regime change” if they win a majority in the new Armenian parliament.

“We must put aside all kinds of differences and personal ambitions because at stake is the future of our country. At this fateful moment we have no right to be divided before our people,” he told a joint news conference with the two other top leaders of the bloc, Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovannisian.

“We are ready [to team up] with those forces which stand for change and want to stop these authorities from governing,” added the retired army general.

Asked whether ORO hopes for a post-election deal with businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s bloc, one of the election favorites, Ohanian said: “As regards Mr. Tsarukian, you known that I have met with him for several times before and we have a good relationship and that relationship will always be maintained.” He did not comment further.

Tsarukian has avoided explicitly criticizing President Sarkisian and calling for his ouster during the election campaign.

Most opinion polls conducted in Armenia suggest that ORO will have trouble garnering at least 7 percent of the vote needed for having seats in the next National Assembly.

Oskanian dismissed these polls as not credible, saying that they all were commissioned and rigged by the government. He and the two other ORO leaders expressed confidence that their bloc will pass the vote threshold.

Hovannisian, for his part, warned the authorities and their loyalists against resorting to serious vote irregularities. He said ORO could stage post-election protests in Yerevan if the April 2 election is rigged.

“If electoral fraud …. continues on election day, we will wait for signals from not only other political forces but also the public and will decide accordingly what to do on April 3,” he said without elaborating.

ORO already cried foul after one of its unofficial senior figures, Samvel Babayan, was arrested on March 22. Babayan, who is a former commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army, was charged with smuggling an anti-aircraft weapon to Armenia. He denies the accusation.

ORO has condemned Babayan’s arrest as politically motivated, saying that the authorities are thus trying to weaken the bloc. Babayan’s lawyer has said, however, that his client does not consider himself a political prisoner.

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