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Armenian Opposition To Demand Snap Elections


Armenia -- Ishkhan Saghatelian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation, at a news conference in Yerevan, April 30, 2019.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and two other opposition parties will demand the holding of fresh general elections at their first joint rally scheduled for October 8, a Dashnaktsutyun leader said on Wednesday.

Dashnaktsutyun, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and Hayrenik Party announced their decision to rally supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Tuesday. In a joint statement, they denounced Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his cabinet and cited “the need for the formation of a new kind of national government.”

“The main demand is pre-term parliamentary elections and that requires the prime minister’s resignation,” Dashnaktsutyun’s Ishkhan Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Other details will be voiced at the rally.”

Just hours after the three parties made the announcement, it emerged that a court in Yerevan scheduled for Wednesday a hearing on the pre-trial arrest of the BHK’s indicted leader Gagik Tsarukian sought by prosecutors. Tsarukian and his lawyers did not show up for the hearing, leading the court to postpone it until Friday.

Alen Simonian, a senior lawmaker from the ruling My Step bloc, claimed that the planned rally is aimed at helping Tsarukian avoid arrest on vote buying charges strongly denied by him.

Saghatelian categorically denied such a connection. “We are saying the opposite: that these authorities keep trying to silence their political opponents through criminal cases and persecution,” he said.

The Dashnaktsutyun leader insisted that the rally will take place as planned even if Tsarukian is arrested. “We hope that the authorities will not opt for that,” he said.

The three parties agreed in June to work together in challenging the government shortly after Tsarukian was stripped of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution and charged with bribing voters ahead of 2017 parliamentary elections. The BHK leader, who is one of Armenia’s richest men, rejects the accusations as politically motivated.

With 8.3 percent of the vote, Tsarukian’s party came in a distant second in the last general elections held in December 2018 and widely recognized as democratic. Dashnaktsutyun got only 3.9 percent, failing to win any parliament seats.

Dashnaktsutyun and the BHK had for years been represented in former President Serzh Sarkisian’s government toppled during the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” They joined Pashinian’s first cabinet formed in May 2018 but were ousted from it five months later when the prime minister accused them of secretly collaborating with the former ruling Republican Party.

The third opposition party, Hayrenik, was set up early this year by Artur Vanetsian, the former head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS). Vanetsian fell out with Pashinian and resigned as NSS director in September 2019.

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