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Ruling Parties ‘Untroubled’ By Opposition Protests


Armenia - Civic activists protest against President Serzh Sarkisian's continued rule outside the ruling Republican Party's headquarters in Yerevan, 24 March 2018.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and its junior coalition partner, Dashnaktsutyun, said on Monday that they are not worried about opposition plans to stage street demonstrations against President Serzh Sarkisian’s apparent plans to extend his rule.

Sarkisian is widely expected to become prime minister and thus remain Armenia’s most powerful man after serving out his final presidential term on April 9. Various opposition groups, notably Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, have pledged to rally supporters next month in a bid to scuttle his perceived plans.

Pashinian indicated last week that the focal point of his and his allies’ campaign will be the period between April 9 and April 17, the anticipated date of the new prime minister’s election by the Armenian parliament. He claimed that Sarkisian will be particularly vulnerable to popular pressure during that time because he will have no formal control over the government, the military and security agencies.

“I don’t take that seriously,” Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, said, commenting on Pashinian’s statement. “Power is not a box which they can pick up. You need grounds to take power.”

“We have had many cases where the president of the republic was abroad or on vacation,” Baghdasarian told reporters. “He was substituted for during those times.”

Dashnaktsutyun’s Aghvan Vartanian also dismissed Pashinian’s plans. “During that period [from April 9-17] power won’t be lying on the street,” he said. “Every state body will be performing their functions.”

Pashinian’s Civil Contract is one of the three opposition parties making up the Yelk alliance which finished third in last year’s parliamentary elections. While also opposing Sarkisian’s continued rule, the two other Yelk parties have refused to back his plans. They say that anti-Sarkisian protests are unlikely to attract big crowds.

Also campaigning against Sarkisian’s “reproduction” is the For the Armenian State coalition of more radical opposition groups and activists, including Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party. The grouping pulled a small crowd for its most recent rally held in Yerevan on Friday. It hopes to team up with Civil Contract.

“I can understand when extraparliamentary forces try to use the street,” said the HHK’s Baghdasarian. “It’s just a bit unclear to me why there are parliamentary forces willing to leave the parliament and opt for street protests.”

“I think that there are no grounds [for doing that,] but as I said, it’s up to a political force to choose its method of political struggle,” added the pro-government lawmaker.

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