Armenia’s government is ready to consider “reasonable proposals” from opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian to defuse post-election tensions and carry out wide-ranging reforms in the country, a key political ally of President Serzh Sarkisian said on Wednesday.
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian, who managed Sarkisian’s election campaign, made clear at the same time that the main opposition candidate in last week’s presidential election must concede defeat and congratulate the incumbent on winning a second term. He reiterated the presidential camp’s rejection of opposition calls for snap presidential or parliamentary elections.
“It would be right if Mr. Hovannisian presented prudent proposals on behalf of voters and substantiated and called for serious reforms and changes in staffing policies,” Abrahamian told a news conference. “I think that’s the way to go, if we care about our country’s progress.”
Abrahamian indicated that the government could, in particular, offer ministerial posts to Hovannisian or other members of his Zharangutyun (Heritage) party if they want. “I am convinced that Serzh Sarkisian would be ready to discuss such issues with Mr. Hovannisian,” he said. “I would consider that a reasonable proposal.”
Hovannisian reacted to this offer later in the day. “If Serzh Sarkisian has something to tell me, I am ready to listen,” he told reporters. “I have not received any proposals as yet.” He stressed that Sarkisian must “respect the people’s victory” if any dialogue between them is to succeed.
Hovannisian and Sarkisian already met last week to discuss official results of the February 18 election that gave victory to the incumbent. The opposition leader, who considers the vote fraudulent, demanded that the authorities hold a repeat election or call fresh parliamentary polls. Sarkisian rejected this demand.
Hovannisian responded by continuing street protests in Yerevan and other parts of the country. He spoke to journalists in the southeastern town of Sisian on Wednesday evening at the end of a marathon tour of the remote Syunik province.
Hovannisian held the biggest rally in the regional capital Kapan, where officials vote results showed him defeating Sarkisian. By contrast, he failed to attract anyone to a planned gathering in Goris, another Syunik town that has long been a de facto of fiefdom of Surik Khachatrian, the controversial regional governor. Hovannisian accused Khachatrian of intimidating local residents.
“I am humbled by the power of our rallies,” Hovannisian said in Sisian. “I can see that the Armenian people realize that they won on February 18.”
The opposition leader is due to hold another rally in Yerevan on Thursday and has scheduled more such demonstrations for the following days. He said on Wednesday that he will keep up the protests and hopes to succeed in “formalizing the victory of the Armenian people” in March.
“We must continue that struggle,” he said. “I expect that the Armenian people will not step back.”