Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian declared fellow opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian the rightful winner of Armenia’s presidential election but remained in no rush to join his campaign of anti-government protests on Saturday.
Hovannisian, meanwhile, took the campaign outside Yerevan, rallying thousands of supporters in five cities and towns.
“The results are obvious to me: [President] Serzh Sarkisian was not elected and the winner is Raffi Hovannisian. I have no doubts whatsoever,” Ter-Petrosian declared at a conference of a key party aligned in his Armenian National Congress (HAK) alliance.
Ter-Petrosian at the same time voiced misgivings about Hovannisian’s ongoing street protests aimed at forcing a rerun of the February 18 ballot. “So far I have seen only the people in action,” he said. “The people have revolted just as they revolted during all previously falsified elections.”
The HAK leader claimed that Hovannisian lacks a clear plan of actions that would force the Sarkisian administration to cave in. “I see words, I see speeches, but there is no action, no plan of actions,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian, who was Sarkisian’s main election challenger in the last presidential election, insisted that he did have such a plan when challenging official vote results in February 2008 with nonstop demonstrations in Yerevan. Ten people were killed and more than 100 others were injured when the authorities quelled those protests.
Hovannisian, who served as foreign minister in the Ter-Petrosian government in 1991-1992, and his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party backed the ex-president’s 2008 bid to return to power. Relations between the two men worsened in the following years, with Zharangutyun accusing Ter-Petrosian of seeking to impose his will on the entire opposition.
Hovannisian on Saturday held unsanctioned rallies in Gyumri and Vanadzor, Armenia’s second and third largest cities respectively, as well as three towns in an effort to pile up pressure on the Sarkisian administration. He pulled the largest crowd in Gyumri, reflecting the fact that he won almost 70 percent of the vote there, according to official results.
“I am not issuing ultimatums but it must be evident to the third president [Sarkisian] respected by me that it’s time to transfer power to the people of Armenia,” Hovannisian said at the Gyumri rally. “He who wants to live in the past can stay in the past. We are heading to a new, future Armenia.”
Hovannisian is due again rally supporters in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Sunday despite failing to secure official authorization by municipal authorities.
The Armenian police repeatedly warned him against holding unsanctioned demonstrations on Saturday. A separate police statement warned that the holding of more such protests would be fraught with “chaos, rights abuses and clashes.”