Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian acknowledged on Wednesday growing differences with his key political ally, while saying that he hopes to prevent the collapse of their Yelk bloc, the third largest force in Armenia’s parliament.
“There has never been a stale atmosphere of total accord in the Yelk alliance,” Pashinian told reporters. “We have had heated debates right from the beginning and those debates in no way reduce the difference between opinions and my respect for our partners.”
“Unfortunately, those differences are becoming more pronounced by the day,” he said. “But our position has always been constructive and will remain constructive.”
“I think that the Yelk alliance needs to overcome the differences,” he added on the fifth day of his 200-kilometer-long march through Armenia’s northern and central regions.
Pashinian and a group of activists of his Civil Contract began the unusual walking tour in advance of their demonstrations in Yerevan against President Serzh Sarkisian’s apparent plans to stay in power after completing his second term on April 9. The first such rally is scheduled for April 13.
The two other parties making up Yelk have refused to join the campaign, saying that it will not draw strong popular support. One of them, Bright Armenia, has been particularly critical of Pashinian’s tactics. Edmon Marukian, the Bright Armenia leader, called it “reckless” on Tuesday.
In a newspaper article, Marukian said that instead of trying to unseat the outgoing president by street protests Yelk should gain more levers to hold the government in check. In that regard, he suggested that the authorities allow the opposition and civil society to name the chairpersons of two standing committees of the Armenian parliament, a member of the Constitutional Court and the country’s human rights ombudsman.
Pashinian dismissed the idea. “My march is not aimed at securing any state posts for the opposition and in this context we cannot even consider that,” he said.
Pashinian again insisted that his fight against Sarkisian’s continued rule reflects the views of the vast majority of Armenians who voted for Yelk in the April 2017 parliamentary elections.
“We are ready to stay patient so that pessimists reconsider their views and believe that the people can win,” the Civil Contract leader said in a live video message aired through Facebook later in the day. He claimed that his ongoing march has already created an “atmosphere of optimism” among opposition supporters in the country.