Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has urged all political forces opposed to the current government to rally around a common agenda that he believes will help achieve a power change in Armenia.
“This government must be changed from top to bottom,” the politician declared at a rally organized by his Heritage party in Yerevan’s central Liberty Square on Friday.
Addressing hundreds of supporters, Hovannisian stressed that April should become the month for the change. He called on other political forces and civil society to unite in the coming weeks, warning that those who “fail to make a step” would be considered “deserters”.
The Heritage party leader sharply criticized the government for its stance on a major international issue at the United Nations General Assembly where Armenia voted against a resolution reaffirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity and calling the Crimean referendum illegal. Implying that Armenia was under Russian pressure and so could not even abstain like some of Russia’s other military and political allies did, Hovannisian spoke about the danger of losing sovereignty.
“Under this illegitimate government we may also forget about the recognition of and compensation for the Armenian Genocide, we may forget about the recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Artsakh [ed: Nagorno-Karabakh], we may forget about the independence of the Republic of Armenia, human rights, free elections and national interests,” the opposition leader said.
Hovannisian was the main challenger of current President Serzh Sarkisian in last year’s presidential race. He and his supporters staged protests for weeks in Yerevan and other major cities and towns across Armenia in the wake of the disputed election.
Heritage’s next rally in Yerevan is scheduled for April 9, the first anniversary of Sarkisian’s inauguration as president for the second term. Hovannisian and his political team do not recognize the legitimacy of the Sarkisian government.
Meanwhile, another major political party representing the parliamentary minority also spoke about its intention to take ‘radical steps’ unless the ruling party agrees to changing the government until April 28.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) along with Heritage and two other opposition factions plan to initiate a motion of no-confidence against the government then.
Representatives of the party led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian on Friday threatened to organize mass street protests to secure the change.
“In order to succeed we will need to ensure the presence of hundreds of thousands of people in Yerevan’s streets, squares, in front of certain buildings,” said BHK faction member Vahan Babayan, who warned that then they may also start demanding a complete power change.
Unlike leading opposition parties the BHK has stopped short of demanding the resignation of President Sarkisian. The party posing itself as an alternative to the current government so far has pushed for the change of the Cabinet and its current head Tigran Sarkisian.
Meanwhile, the ruling Republican Party again laughed off the BHK’s warnings, calling into doubt the tycoon-led party’s ability to have a ‘radical’ agenda.