Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian on Thursday offered to negotiate with acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, while insisting that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) must let him become interim premier.
Pashinian ruled out any “compromise with the corrupt and anti-democratic government system” as he addressed thousands of supporters in Yerevan.
“There can be no deals behind the people’s back,” he said. “Either I will be elected prime minister through the people and with the support of the people, or no prime minister of Armenia will be elected at all.”
“We expect all factions in the National Assembly to unconditionally recognize the victory of the people,” he said.
Pashinian went on to declare that he is ready to meet Karapetian to discuss these demands on Friday. But he said the meeting can only be held in the presence of the press.
“We won’t be negotiating with the HHK behind the closed doors,” he told the crowd repeatedly chanting “Nikol, prime minister!”
The two men had already been scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning, the day after massive street demonstrations led by Pashinian forced Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian to resign. Those talks were cancelled after Karapetian rejected preconditions set by Pashinian.
The HHK on Wednesday expressed readiness to discuss “any issue” with Pashinian “without preconditions.” The party’s chief spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, reaffirmed this on Thursday.
“We do not reject the agenda put forward by Pashinian or other figures,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But we also expect the same constructive approach from our partners.”
Sharmazanov declined to specify concessions which the HHK is ready to make to the Pashinian-led opposition. Nor would he say whether it could install him as interim premier and hold snap parliamentary elections.
Sharmazanov also denied Pashinian’s earlier claims that Karapetian has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the HHK. “Karen Karapetian has the full support of our team,” he said.
The HHK, which has until now been headed by Serzh Sarkisian, controls 58 of the 105 seats in Armenia’s parliament. The National Assembly is scheduled to meet and elect the next prime minister on May 1.
So far only the opposition Yelk alliance, of which Pashinian is a leading member, has explicitly backed his demands. Yelk holds 9 parliament seats.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian is represented in the parliament by 31 deputies. The BHK voiced support for Pashinian’s popular movement on Wednesday. Tsarukian and Pashinian met later in the day.
A senior BHK representative, Nair Zohrabian, declined to say on Thursday whether the BHK lawmakers will vote for Pashinian on May 1, saying that negotiations with the protest leader are “going on.” “I can only say that Tsarukian’s bloc will take the people’s voice into account when making a decision,” she said.
Pashinian also announced that he will hold a rally in Gyumri on Friday evening and take his campaign to Vanadzor the following day. The demonstrations in Yerevan, will resume on Sunday, he said.
Earlier in the day, Pashinian urged supporters to stop blocking streets in the capital. He argued that the daily blockades are increasingly abused by unruly car drivers, resulting in traffic chaos.