Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian confirmed on Tuesday plans to try to overshadow President Serzh Sarkisian’s upcoming inauguration for a second term in office with a similar ceremony to be held in a key Yerevan square.
Sarkisian will be sworn in on April 9 at a special session of the Armenian parliament which is due to be attended by not only lawmakers but also hundreds of other dignitaries. The inauguration will take place at Yerevan’s largest concert hall in accordance with the official results of the February 18 presidential election that gave victory to the incumbent.
Hovannisian, who considers himself the legitimate election winner, has been urging supporters to converge on the city’s Liberty Square on April 9 for the “inauguration of a new Armenia” since launching a new nationwide campaign of street protests on Monday.
“I will be in Liberty Square. I am inviting Mr. Sarkisian and all other people to Liberty Square,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) as he campaigned in Gyumri on Tuesday.
This was a major theme of his speech at a rally held in Armenia’s second largest city. The leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party urged supporters to travel to Yerevan and attend his planned ceremony next Tuesday.
“We are going to have a newly declared Republic of Armenia,” he told several hundred people. “We will do that together. And that will be the start of a first-ever real national unity based on the constitution and laws.”
“There is only one week to go [before April 9.] I ask, demand and expect you to join our national unity because nothing can defeat us,” added Hovannisian.
Hovannisian made similar appeals while touring other parts of the country on Monday. He warned the authorities against bullying opposition supporters and blocking roads to Yerevan on April 9.
Sarkisian’s inauguration will be boycotted by parliament deputies from not only Zharangutyun but also the Armenian National Congress (HAK), another major opposition group that considers the incumbent’s reelection fraudulent. “The current president did not get a popular mandate. That is why we will not participate,” HAK spokesman Arman Musinian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), another opposition party represented in the parliament, was less categorical about its deputies’ participation. “We are part of Raffi Hovannisian’s movement but have not yet made any decision with regard to that day,” said Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the National Assembly, likewise declined to clarify whether its parliamentary faction will be present at Sarkisian’s inauguration.