A senior representative of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s party indicated on Tuesday that it will not join forces with another opposition group, the Yelk alliance, in trying to prevent President Serzh Sarkisian from extending his decade-long rule.
Levon Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), said Yelk leaders, notably Nikol Pashinian, themselves made it easier for Sarkisian to hold on to power when they declined to campaign against his controversial constitutional changes in 2015.
Under those changes enacted in a disputed referendum, Armenia will be transformed soon into a parliamentary republic governed by a powerful prime minister. Sarkisian is widely expected to take up that post after completing his final presidential term on April 9.
Pashinian and his allies have said that they will strive to prevent such a scenario. Pashinian warned earlier this month that the outgoing president could heighten political tensions in Armenia if he becomes prime minister.
Zurabian scoffed at such statements when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “When we were telling the people in 2015 that this is a plan to usurp power, that these constitutional changes are only aimed at extending Serzh Sarkisian’s dictatorial rule … we were alone,” he said. “The Armenian National Congress single-handedly conducted the No campaign, whereas the people who are now saying ‘join us’ or something called that a ‘false agenda.’ Furthermore, they were telling people that the opposition is fooling them and that they should not join it.”
“How can we trust the individuals who at the most critical moment did exactly what the authorities needed for extending their rule?” added Zurabian.
Yelk has yet to clarify whether it will stage street protests to try to scuttle Sarkisian’s continued rule. Another leader of the bloc, Aram Sarkisian, said last week that there are disagreements within Yelk on this score.
Pashinian played a prominent role in Ter-Petrosian’s broad-based opposition movement that nearly brought the ex-president back to power in a disputed presidential election held in February 2008. He spent about two years in prison on dubious charges stemming from the March 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
Pashinian subsequently fell out with Ter-Petrosian and set up his own political party, Civil Contract. It is one of the three opposition parties which formed Yelk in late 2016.