Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian on Friday again called on Armenia’s opposition forces to jointly prevent President Serzh Sarkisian from extending his decade-long rule next year.
“[Sarkisian] must step down, he must not be Armenia’s next prime minister or [ruling] party chief for the sake of Armenia,” said the leader of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party.
“If he tries [to become prime minister] I and Zharangutyun will stand with those people who want to do everything to stave off ‘Serzhocracy,’” he told a news conference.
Sarkisian will complete his second and final presidential term in April 2018, which will be followed by Armenia’s switch to the parliamentary system of government. He has not publicly ruled out the possibility of becoming prime minister and thus remaining the country’s most powerful man.
Leaders of the opposition Yelk alliance, which finished third in the recent parliamentary elections, have warned this month that they could stage anti-government street protests if Sarkisian chooses to hold on to power. But they have been cool towards the idea of joining forces with Hovannisian and his party.
Zharangutyun ran in the April 2 elections in an alliance with former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and another opposition party headed by former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. The ORO alliance failed to win any parliament seats as it got only 2 percent of the vote, according to official election results which it rejected as fraudulent. By contrast, Yelk is represented in the 105-member National Assembly by nine deputies.
Hovannisian stated late last week that Sarkisian’s possible decision to become prime minister should trigger an anti-government “velvet revolution” in Armenia. He said Zharangutyun stands ready to join forces with other opposition groups to lead such a protest movement.