Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian said on Friday that his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party still hopes to prevent President Serzh Sarkisian from staying in power after his final presidential term ends in April.
Hovannisian said Zharangutyun, which is no longer represented in Armenia’s parliament, will try to team up with other opposition and civic groups to stage protests against Sarkisian’s continued rule. He indicated, though, that such a campaign hinges on strong popular support.
“If the people … want such change, such active steps, we must do everything to prevent the continuation of that one-man rule with public actions,” he told reporters. “We believe it would be disastrous for our future.”
“So you can expect active initiatives from Zharangutyun and not only Zharangutyun in advance of next spring,” he said.
Hovannisian stated in June that Sarkisian’s possible decision to become prime minister should trigger an anti-government “velvet revolution” in Armenia. He and his associates have since negotiated with other opposition figures in hopes of organizing such a protest movement. They have announced no agreements to that effect.
Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, Armen Martirosian, said on September 5 that Armenian opposition parties are unlikely to join forces for that purpose. He said public mood in the country also does not bode well for massive anti-government rallies.
Other opposition forces, notably the Yelk alliance, are also skeptical about their ability to attract large crowds, while pledging to resist Sarkisian’s possible attempts to extend his decade-long rule. The Armenian president has so far shed little light on his political plans.
Yelk finished third in the April 2017 parliamentary elections, winning 9 seats in Armenia’s 105-member parliament. Another opposition alliance, which was co-headed by Hovannisian, former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, fared much worse and is therefore not represented in the National Assembly. It is not clear whether Oskanian or Ohanian are ready to back the protests sought by Hovannisian.