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Opposition Alliance Divided Over Anti-Sarkisian Protests


Armenia - Leaders of the opposition Yelk alliance hold ling an anti-government rally in Yerevan, 19Jan2018.

Representatives of a three-party opposition alliance represented in parliament have downplayed the threat to their unity despite differences over tactics of opposing outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian’s perceived intention to stay in power.

Nikol Pashinian, the leader of one of the Yelk alliance’s member parties, Civil Contract, insists that street protests are needed to thwart Sarkisian’s becoming Armenia’s next prime minister, which will be the top policymaking post in the country after a 2015 constitutional reform is fully enacted in April.

Civil Contract has officially reserved Liberty Square, the traditional venue for political protests in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, for April 1-3. The Pashinian-led party reportedly presented a “roadmap” for action to other Yelk allies – the Bright Armenia and Hanrapetutiun (Republic) parties, which, however, did not endorse it.

“The majority of the alliance sees concerns regarding this roadmap and current discussions are about dispelling these concerns, because all parties in the alliance agree that there is no taking the public to another defeat and disillusionment,” Gevorg Gorgisian, a lawmaker representing Bright Armenia, said.

Earlier, publications in the media suggested that Bright Armenia and Hanrapetutiun were more inclined to oppose Sarkisian in parliament by means of fielding their own candidate for prime minister. Pashinian, who leads Yelk’s nine-member faction in parliament, has even been named among possible candidates for prime minister.

Meanwhile, Gorgisian did not rule out a situation in which Civil Contract will stage rallies independently from the rest of Yelk. “That, however, would not be the best solution,” the opposition lawmaker said.

Pashinian stated that Sarkisian’s remaining in power was unacceptable to him. “I can’t just do nothing and watch Sarkisian extending his rule,” he said.

Earlier, however, Edmon Marukian, the leader of Bright Armenia, said that people missed the chance to struggle against Sarkisian when they overwhelmingly voted for the governing party in last year’s parliamentary elections that the opposition claims was marred by large-scale vote buying and use of administrative resources.

Despite the current situation within their alliance, Yelk’s representatives have sought to downplay the threat that differences over how to oppose Sarkisian pose to their unity.

Political analyst Armen Grigorian believes, however, that if Yelk has differences over the “top political issue” of Armenia, which is President Sarkisian’s continued stay in power, “it is difficult to imagine how in the future they will be able to work together.”

“They may have a consensus on secondary issues, but if they differ over the top political issue, it is difficult to consider Yelk as a united political group,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Commenting on the situation inside Yelk late on Thursday, deputy parliament speaker and spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) Eduard Sharmazanov emphasized that it was the opposition alliance’s “internal matter”.

“But speaking generally, political processes should be taking place inside the parliament. Last year’s parliamentary elections showed that there was no [public] discontent in Armenia for post-election rallies,” Sharmazanov said.

Before launching constitutional reforms in 2014 President Sarkisian, who is the leader of the HHK, pledged not to seek a top government post if Armenia eventually switched to a parliamentary form of government. He himself has not yet spoken about his plans after the expiry of his current office on April 9, but senior representatives of the HHK, including Sharmazanov, have repeatedly expressed their “personal view” that Sarkisian is the best candidate the ruling party has for the country’s next prime minister.

Together with its junior coalition partner, Dashnaktsutyun, the HHK controls 65 seats in the 105-member National Assembly and can easily install its candidate as prime minister during a vote expected to be held on April 17.

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