Opposition presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian vowed to continue and expand his street protests against official results of Armenia’s presidential election as he again rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan on Friday.
Addressing the crowd in the city’s Liberty Square, he also revealed that President Serzh Sarkisian rejected his compromise proposals made at their meeting on Thursday.
Hovannisian, who refuses to recognize Sarkisian’s victory in Monday’s vote and has declared himself its rightful winner, said he proposed that the Armenian authorities call a repeat election. “The answer was ‘no,’” he said.
Hovannisian said he then suggested that Sarkisian agree to snap parliamentary elections that would “return power to the people.” “What do you think was the answer? No,” he said.
“I have nothing to say to these de facto authorities anymore,” the U.S.-born opposition leader continued, pledging to carry on with his campaign of peaceful demonstrations and extend it to other parts of Armenia. He said he will rally supporters in Armenia’s second city of Gyumri and three major towns on Saturday before holding another demonstration in downtown Yerevan on Sunday.
“This popular struggle will not die down. We will achieve victory,” Hovannisian added to rapturous applause.
The campaign appeared to be gaining some momentum on Friday, with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a major opposition party, adding its voice to Hovannisian’s allegations of vote rigging strongly denied by the government. Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, was among speakers at the rally. He welcomed “the unstoppable movement to establish the power of the people.”
“Dashnaktsutyun is with you,” Rustamian told the protesters. “Armenian people proved on February 18 that it’s impossible to break them.”
The rally also featured a fiery speech by Nikol Pashinian, a prominent opposition figure who played a major role in anti-government protests sparked by the previous Armenian presidential election. “Starting from today, Serzh Sarkisian must not be able to have quiet nights,” Pashinian said. “Every day must be made unpredictable for him.”
Pashinian, who is a dissident member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), also urged other opposition forces to join in the post-election protests. The HAK, which is led by Levon Ter-Petrosian, Sarkisian’s main election challenger in 2008, has condemned the February 18 vote as fraudulent but stopped short of voicing support for Hovannisian so far.