Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party said on Monday that it hopes to form a coalition of opposition forces that would try to prevent President Serzh Sarkisian from extending his decade-long rule.
Zharangutyun’s new chairman, Armen Martirosian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that it is discussing with various groups and individuals the possibility of forming a “united front” against Sarkisian’s perceived plans to become prime minister. “Such discussions have already started and they started some time ago,” he said.
Martirosian said Sarkisian’s presidency has been a failure and he must not be allowed to hold on to power after completing his final term on April 9. “I think that the fight must be not so much against Serzh Sarkisian as for reforms, for radical changes in the country,” he said.
Martirosian added that Zharangutyun is specifically ready to team up with extraparliamentary opposition forces, including former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK).
The HAK’s deputy chairman, Levon Zurabian, reacted cautiously to the idea. “Let’s talk, let’s discuss, let’s see whether that is possible, whether the current state of public consciousness is enough for organizing such an outburst,” he said.
Zurabian indicated last week that the HAK will not join forces with another opposition group, the Yelk alliance. He said Yelk leaders, notably Nikol Pashinian, themselves made things easier for Sarkisian when they refused to campaign against his controversial constitutional changes in 2015.
Neither Zharangutyun nor the HAK is represented in the current Armenian parliament elected last April. Zharangutyun contested the last general elections in an alliance with former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. According to the official election results, their ORO alliance got only 2 percent of the vote.
An HAK-led electoral bloc fared even worse. By contrast, Yelk won 9 seats in the 105-member parliament.
Pashinian warned earlier this month that the outgoing president could heighten political tensions in Armenia if he becomes prime minister. Still, Yelk has yet to clarify whether it will stage street protests to try to scuttle Sarkisian’s continued rule.
Martirosian took over as Zharangutyun chairman on Saturday following the resignation of Hovannisian, the party’s founder and longtime leader. He insisted that Hovannisian will not retire from politics and will remain a member of the party’s governing board.